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Rubbish in Paris is a glimpse into daily life for millions

A look at the really rubbish problem in the world right now and why we need to protect the rights of waste pickers.

Written by Tarryn Pegna | 16 Mar 2023

A river full of plastic bottles and other rubbish.

A river of plastic waste in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. Insufficient waste collection meant that during recent flooding, the rivers and streets filled with plastic waste. Credit: Richard Malengule/Tearfund

In just two months’ time, Paris is due to host major negotiations on how to tackle the world’s plastic pollution problem. But, right now, the city is being described as ‘disgusting’ after an extended strike by waste collectors has left sidewalks obscured by mountains of full rubbish bags and overflowing bins. One radio commentator described it as a ‘buffet for rats’.

Local Parisians, currently having to live and work among the stench, have complained of how foul the smell is, and how the masses of garbage are attracting cockroaches and rats – bringing fears of disease outbreaks and safety concerns.

A rubbish view

In a city more commonly associated with architectural beauty, art museums and the chic Champs Elysees, just less than two weeks without formal rubbish collection has completely spoiled the view.

‘In a city more commonly associated with architectural beauty and art museums, just less than two weeks without formal rubbish collection has completely spoiled the view.’

Waste collectors in France’s capital city are striking over plans to raise the retirement age. Whilst Paris is not somewhere Tearfund works, the shocking images in the media and online offer a small glimpse into the daily lives of 2 billion people around the world who have no safe way to dispose of their rubbish.

In many places, living amongst disease-breeding piles of garbage is not a temporary inconvenience but an ongoing problem. Often, people in these situations have little choice but to resort to burning waste in open dumps, on street corners or even in their own backyards, which releases toxic fumes causing serious health problems for those living nearby.

The global plastic treaty

The talks being held in Paris in May, are the next steps toward creating a global plastic treaty. Tearfund is calling on the leaders from almost 200 countries who will be attending to ensure a treaty that will bring an end to the plastic pollution problem, bring an end to open dumping and burning and that will protect the rights and working conditions of informal waste pickers. Waste pickers play a vital role – particularly in areas where formal waste management is either poor or non-existent.

As Christians, we believe that it is part of our responsibility to love our neighbours and our planet and treat them with respect. And you can help us make a difference.

Add your voice to this vital conversation by joining our rubbish campaign.

There’s a petition for you to sign (and share with friends and family) here.

As the rubbish situation in Paris draws our attention in the media and gives us a glimpse of what life looks like for many people around the world, please will you take a moment to pray and to take action with us.

Pray with us for the global plastic treaty

    • Lift up all those negotiating on the treaty. Ask that God will give them wisdom and insight, that they would ensure the agreement addresses the human impact of plastic pollution and brings about an end to open dumping and burning.
    • Pray that waste pickers’ voices will be represented and heard in the negotiations and that the treaty secures a fair future for those who collect and recycle plastic waste around the world.
    • Pray for Tearfund’s policy and advocacy staff who will be present at the treaty negotiations. Pray that they will have opportunities to influence the delegations to ensure those living in poverty are kept at the heart of the negotiations. 

Written by

Written by  Tarryn Pegna

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