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Tearfund Australia urges world leaders to not dispose of waste pickers at plastic pollution negotiations

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Media Release

Tearfund Australia, a Christian development, relief and advocacy organisation, is urging world leaders to enshrine the human rights of waste pickers at this week’s United Nations Environment Assembly negotiations.

World leaders are currently negotiating the first ever global treaty to end plastic pollution. This week more than 150 governments, including Australia, are meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, for the third round of treaty talks before the final, legally binding treaty is signed in late 2024.

Tearfund Australia is calling on the Australian Government to use its influence to help shape a fair and equitable treaty. Already, thousands of Christians have signed Tearfund’s petition calling for the treaty to fully address the impacts of plastic pollution on those living in poverty.

Tearfund will be represented at the negotiations to lobby country delegations to protect waste pickers rights in the transition away from problematic plastics.

Waste pickers are informal workers who collect, sort and sell materials for recycling or reuse. It is estimated that more than 20 million people around the world earn an income in this way. Despite their essential contribution to waste processing, waste pickers often endure poor working conditions and face discrimination, harassment and exclusion from decision-making processes.

Any plastic treaty must recognise and protect waste pickers and ensure that their livelihoods are maintained.

For more information about Tearfund Australia’s advocacy for waste pickers, visit:

Quote from Tearfund Australia’s Head of Advocacy, Emma Wyndham Chalmers:

“This treaty has the potential to profoundly impact the lives and livelihoods of some of our world’s most vulnerable people - for better or for worse. We are calling on world leaders to ensure that justice and our shared human flourishing is placed at the centre of the decisions being made, and that the rights of those who have contributed least to the problem of plastic pollution are protected.”

Quote from Tearfund Australia’s CEO, Matthew Maury:

“God calls us to love our neighbour and to steward creation - Tearfund is focused on this treaty since it builds on both of these priorities. The great injustice of plastic pollution is that those who are most impacted by the problem have done the least to cause it. We must ensure that justice for people living in poverty is at the heart of the treaty process.”

For further information or interview requests call Melody Murton (Tearfund Head of Communications & Education) on (03) 9264 7000 or email [email protected]

Key Messages

Tearfund Australia:

Tearfund works in partnership to end poverty, challenge inequality and build sustainable communities. Following Jesus, we go where the need is greatest, acting with courage to tackle injustice so that all may experience fullness of life. Our partnerships with local Christian agencies develop long-term holistic transformation for communities facing poverty and injustice around the world and in Australia. We do justice together as we inspire, connect and equip Australian Christians to live, act and pray for a more just and compassionate world.