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Ground Score Association Advocacy Nothing For Us Without Us

10 reasons waste Pickers are important in the us

1. We recycle many bottles and cans that would have gone in the trash, thus preventing the emission of greenhouse gasses.

2. We clean up the environment by picking up litter, thus making it safer for both people and wildlife. 

3. We are key stakeholders in keeping parks and communities clean.

4. We perform needed waste collection services to folks who often don’t receive them such as those who are unhoused, which prevents the need to open burn and dump waste. We are skilled in performing these kinds of services for our own communities because we understand and can relate to people there.

5. Our work is informal, flexible, and accessible to many people in need who are often shut out of the formal job market.

6. We save money for municipalities by sorting recyclables for free and reducing the amount of material going to landfills and incinerators.  

7. We have existed in our country since the beginning of waste, forming the basis of modern waste management systems and filling critical gaps in materials management.

8. We are value chain workers who support and reduce the task of garbage collectors.

9. Our work helps to save landfill space.
10. We contribute to the manufacture of new products made from recycled materials.


Ground Score advocates for Bottle Bills (Deposit Return Systems on beverage containers) that enable canners to operate their own depots and conveniently access places to deposit cans and bottles. We train our People’s Depot workers on bottle bills so they can understand and help inform the recycling policy that drives their work. See our case study on Oregon’s Bottle Bill.

Ground Score has been represented on recycling committees to update Oregon’s Bottle Bill and to oversee rulemaking for the Recycling Modernization Act.  


Ground Score helped inform a change in Portland City Code, 17.102 that legalized canning (the informal collection of cans and bottles) at the household level in Multnomah County. Listen to GSA's Kris Brown and Taylor Cass Talbott on how canning reduces waste and changes lives in ISLR's Local Power podcast.

On March 20, 2024, Waste Dive published an article about an Intersectional Environmentalist report released that month featuring The People's Depot and TPD manager Kris Brown. The report '"highlights the importance of including diverse stakeholders in the recycling industry, particularly those involved in the informal economy,” said Diandra Esparza, co-founder and executive director [of Intersectional Environmentalist]. 

That includes recyclers known as canners, or informal workers who collect cans and bottles as a source of income. Such collectors can sometimes face stigma due to their economic or mental health situations, Brown said, but they are major drivers of the deposit return system economy in Oregon and other bottle bill states (Quinn, 2024).'


Ground Score is an affiliate of the International Alliance of Waste Pickers (IAWP), a global trade union of waste picker organizations.  Kris Brown serves as our congressional representative to IAWP.  Ground Score’s Barbra Weber also represents North America on IAWP’s ongoing delegation to the United Nations Plastics Treaty, to help establish an inclusive legally binding treaty to regulate plastic pollution.
Learn more about this work.  

In November 2023, Ground Score’s Barbra Weber and Taylor Cass Talbott, along with collaborators from other democratically-run waste picker organizations across the world, contributed to the report “IAWP’s Vision for a Just Transition for Waste Pickers under the UN Plastics Treaty” by the International Alliance of Waste Pickers. According to the report, the essential components of a just transition that includes waste pickers are:


“1. Recognition of waste pickers in norms, policies, and laws;

2. Universal recognition of registration of waste pickers and other workers in plastics value chains;

3. Transparency, oversight, and adaptation;

4. Direct involvement and advancement in policy making and implementation processes;

5. Social protections and safeguards;

6. Fair remuneration, living wages and sustainable livelihoods;

7. Formalization and strengthened organizing;

8. Capacity building and appropriate technology transfer;

9. Improved materials management (IAWP, 2023)”

Barbra Weber in Nairobi, Kenya, where she advocated for a just transition in the UN Plastics Treaty with the International Alliance of Waste Pickers. Here, she is standing in front of a wall of photos showing the work of various waste picker organizations across the world.

Top of page: Representatives from Ground Score, Sure We Can (New York City), Binners' Project (Vancouver, BC), and Coop Les Valoristes (Montreal) take part in the 2024 North American Waste Picker regional exchange in Portland, Oregon, which was sponsored by the International Alliance of Waste Pickers. The group is standing in front of a mural that Ground Score helped prepare in honor of the late street art advocate J. Brown in partnership with the Portland Street Art Alliance.

Left: Barbra Weber in Nairobi, Kenya, where she advocated for a just transition in the UN Plastics Treaty with the International Alliance of Waste Pickers


Many Ground Score workers come from lived experience with houselessness and sincerely advocate for housing first and the rights of Oregon's unsheltered community. 

A photo of a Ground Score worker holding up a bag of trash and weighing it. The bag is transparent and contanins textile waste.

Our advocacy is rooted in lived experience and workers' education so that our recommendations are crafted by the people who will be most impacted. To support our advocacy work, donate here.

5 ways you can Support Waste Pickers

1. Save your recyclable bottles and cans for us.

2. Donate to waste picker organizations like Ground Score.

3. Contribute gear and protective wear to make our work easier and safer.

4. Promote and help fund research to quantify the existence and impact of waste pickers in your community.

5. Contact elected officials urging them to support us. We need to save Oregon’s bottle bill. We need to ensure sufficient can and bottle return sites like The People's Depot that treat us with dignity. Waste pickers must have a seat at the table in decision-making processes that impact us.

Studies and Reports
Three trash bags filled with used aluminum cans at Ground Score's The People's Depot are in the foreground. In the background are a person sitting on a rail and a bicycle leaning against that rail.
Photo of 20 used aluminum cans  arranged in a 5 by 4 rectangle. The photo was taken from above so that the tops of the cans are showing. This photo is from Ground Score's The People's Depot in Portland, Oregon.

Cass Talbott, T., Chandran, P., Allen, C., Narayan, L., and Boampong, O. (2022, June). Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and Waste Pickers. Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) Technical Brief No. 15. Manchester, UK: WIEGO.

Esparza, D.M., Kazemi, K., Brown, K., Zuñiga, M.E., Vedachalam, S., and Shahyd, K. (2024, March). Environmental Justice Assessment of Aluminum Recycling Programs + Community Engagement: A Report for Can Manufacturers Institute. Intersectional Environmentalist.

Greene, J., Ferry, T., Hawash, L., Zapata, M., and Puczkowskyj, N. (2022, February 15). Hygiene, Storage, and Waste Management for the Unsheltered Community: Gaps & Opportunities Analysis: A report prepared for the City of Portland and Multnomah County Joint Office of Homeless Services: A report prepared for the City of Portland and
Multnomah County Joint Office of Homeless Services.
Portland State University.

Ground Score Association (2021). The People's Depot 2021 Canner Survey.

Harvey, J., Hegel, C., and Hartmann, C. (2023). Independent Recyclers in New York City: Sector profile and pathways to inclusion. Sure We Can, Alliance of Independent Recyclers, Western Connecticut State University, and Suny Old Westbury.

International Alliance of Waste Pickers (2023, November). IAWP’s Vision for a Just Transition for Waste Pickers under the UN Plastics Treaty.

Quinn, M. (2024, March 20). CMI calls for bottle bill policies that prioritize EJ, informal recycling communities. Waste Dive.

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