Turning garbage into gold

During this Christmas season, PE INTERNATIONAL is supporting the aid organisation Brot für die Welt (BfdW or Bread for the World, the development and relief agency of Germany’s Protestant churches) by sending Christmas greetings via email instead of printed Christmas cards. This reduces costs and conserves resources. The money that we save is donated to people who urgently need our help.

This year the money will go to a BfdW project in Brazil, where the organization supports people who make a living by recycling materials they find in the waste containers of Brazil’s major cities. For hundreds of thousands of Brazilians, this is the only way they can survive.

Poor working conditions and quality of life

BfdW, together with „Lutherische Stiftung Diakonie”, supports Brazil's National Movement of Recyclers (MCNR)“, which has set up co-operatives around the country and seeks to enlist as many of the garbage collectors as possible as members, with the aim of helping them to escape poverty and improve their working conditions and quality of life. The organisation has had great success: today MNCR is one of the largest social movements in the country.

For the litter pickers, the rewards are meagre, the work is gruelling and the risks are high, but joining a co-operative can provide enormous benefits. As members of a co-operative, the waste pickers not only have the opportunity to increase the amount they earn, they also get access to health insurance, retirement arrangements and health care. However, many litter pickers are often initially very sceptical about the co-operatives and can take a lot of persuading to join. The benefits of the co-operative are demonstrated by COOMCAT, the Co-operative of Collectors and Recyclers of Santa Cruz do Sul, in the south of Brazil, which has been running for two years. Its 50 members have to take several courses in which they get knowledge about accounting, management and legal issues. They must also commit to the co-operative’s code of conduct: strictly determined working hours, no cheating other litter pickers and no drugs – but COOMCAT’s members have seen their working conditions and quality of life improve dramatically.

Bread for the World

"Brot für die Welt / Bread for the World" was set up in 1959 in Berlin and works jointly with local churches and partner organisations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe on over 1,000 projects, all of which are aimed at helping people to help themselves. The motto behind their work is “justice for the poor”.