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City of Portland's partnership with Ground Score Association highlighted at International Alliance of Waste Pickers Congress

News Article
City staff shared information about their work with Ground Score Association, a collaboration that is viewed as a global model for how local governments can help support formal work opportunities for waste pickers.
City staff sitting on a panel of presenters at the 1st Elective Congress of the International Alliance of Waste Pickers
Panelists at the 1st Elective Congress of the International Alliance of Waste Pickers. Photo credit: Taylor Cass Talbott

City of Portland staff proudly presented at the 1st Elective Congress of the International Alliance of Waste Pickers in Buenos Aires, Argentina earlier this month. Katie Lindsay, Program Analyst with the City’s Homelessness and Urban Camping Impact Reduction Program travelled with colleagues from local nonprofit organization Ground Score Association to attend the Congress and share information about how the City has contracted with Ground Score to provide waste collection services and integrate formalized work opportunities. Though the partnership operates relatively quietly here in Portland, the Ground Score programs supported by the City of Portland are celebrated, globally, as models for how municipal government entities can inclusively and justly hire workers, while solving City problems related to sustainability and waste collection at the same time.

The People's Depot
Customers in line at The People's Depot, waiting to have their containers sorted and redeemed.
Customers bring containers to The People’s Depot to be sorted and redeemed. Photo credit: Taylor Cass Talbott

In 2020, Ground Score Association was supported by the City of Portland in its founding of The People’s Depot, a beverage container redemption center started during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many other redemption centers had suspended services. The temporary closure of so many redemption centers had a radical impact on an important source of income for many people who rely on canning to afford basic necessities.

Today, The People’s Depot is still in operation, even as the COVID-19 epidemic has subsided, thanks to its popularity and highly efficient operations. The People’s Depot offers an alternative space for container redemption that is operated by workers who understand the social stigma that can lead many canners to feel judged and unwelcome at other redemption centers. Having paid Ground Score staff at The People’s Depot also generates more easy entry, benefitted job opportunities that offer formal work experience.

The City helped Ground Score in the initial creation of The People’s Depot by providing startup funding and technical support and has continued to offer support in the form of donated City property to house Depot operations.


GLITTER (Ground Score Leading Inclusively Together Through Environmental Recovery), a waste collection partnership program created by the City of Portland and Ground Score Association, started in 2021. GLITTER hires people who are currently experiencing or who have recently experienced homelessness to pick up waste along designated routes, providing tent-side trash collection service to people living outside. The program has the added benefits of creating easy entry job opportunities and establishing a more circular local economy through the recycling and upcycling of items picked up along collection routes.

Four Ground Score Association staff walking in downtown Portland
GLITTER workers pick up waste on a Portland city sidewalk. Photo credit: Taylor Cass Talbott

The City's GLITTER contract is viewed as a model of how government entities can recognize and integrate formal work for waste pickers – work that, globally, is often done for ad hoc pay and sometimes in dangerous, unregulated environments. That important formalization also provides contracted social protections to workers, including sick pay and guaranteed wages during inclement weather. These types of protections are exactly what the International Alliance of Waste Pickers works to advocate for on a global scale, through the unionization of 50 waste picker organizations representing more than 460,000 workers across 34 countries. 

“The City of Portland’s contract with our partner waste picker organization is cost effective for the City. To prevent the exploitation of this efficiency of work, social protections are written into the proposal.”  Katie Lindsay, Program Analyst, City of Portland

International Influence
Local attendees of the 1st Elective Congress of the International Alliance of Waste Pickers pose together for a photo.
Local attendees of the 1st Elective Congress of the International Alliance of Waste Pickers. Pictured are (left to right) Katie Lindsay, Program Analyst, City of Portland Impact Reduction Program; Barbra Weber, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director, Ground Score Association; Kris Brown, Manager, The People's Depot. Photo credit Marica Vázquez of Montreal’s Coop Les Valoristes

The existence of these types of programs locally offers inspiration to workers across the globe who seek recognition, just wages and safe working conditions. Ground Score Association’s Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director, Barbra Weber, serves on the Executive Council of the International Alliance of Waste Pickers and has advocated worldwide for waste picker rights and environmental sustainability for years. Barbra first attended the United Nations Plastics Treaty Negotiations in 2022 at the first International Negotiating Committee (INC-1) in Uruguay, and has spoken on the UN floor at every INC session. Most recently, at INC-4, Barbra was on the panel for the official side event for the International Labor Organization. Locally, Barbra is also well known as an advocate for the houseless community.

Up next for GLITTER and The People’s Depot representatives will be a presence at the United Nations Fifth Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-5) in Busan, Republic of Korea later this year. The GLITTER program will again be highlighted during that Session as a model, demonstrating to other governments the promise and possibility of creating formal waste picker programs that honor workers’ rights while accomplishing environmental and pollution control goals.

“I dream of a world without plastic or other harmful pollution, I dream of a world where human life is valued above profits, I dream of a world without poverty, I dream of a world without racism or stereotypes, where all communities and individuals contribute to wellbeing. A solution is a true “Just Transition” for Waste Pickers, their communities, and families.” Barbra Weber, Co-Founder & Co-Executive Director, Ground Score Association


Homelessness and Urban Camping Impact Reduction Program