Turkey's Changemakers: Ali Medillioglu organizes recycle workers to make their voices heard
HDN | 11/26/2010 12:00:00 AM |
Sabanci Foundation's 'Turkey's Changemakers' project tells the story of Ali Medillioglu, who works to make Turkish society aware of the problems facing recycle workers.
Ali Mendillioglu is a recycle worker who organizes other recycle workers to advocate for their rights.
Calling himself a recycle worker, Mendillioglu is actually a garbage collector who represents a marginalized community in Turkey. Every day, recycle workers walk around with their two-wheeled carts and look through garbage containers in order to find materials that can be recycled.
They are on the sidewalk across the street, they are right next to the garbage container where cars are parked — yet they are the most invisible.
A 2004 regulation regulates the recycling process and authorizes municipalities and licensed firms to recycle in Turkey. But problems in implementation gave rise to the recycle workers, who do the work out of despair and to fill in the gaps. It is the conditions of unemployment, internal migration, crime and many other social and economic problems of Turkey that force people to work as recycle workers in Turkey. They have nothing but the garbage to use to make a living. In this sense, it is not a voluntary choice but a last resort: What is garbage in one household becomes income for another.
Within this context, Mendillioglu, a recycle worker himself, helps to promote the problems of the recycling process and recycle workers. By establishing an association with 400 active members and creating a Facebook group with 2,753 fans, Mendillioglu aims to serve a single purpose: to create a space for voices to be heard.
For eight years, he has been publishing a periodical for and by the workers. In the ninth issue, a recycle worker writes: "Most people just turn their faces away from us. It is always us, who stay out of life, the game. What we want is to become visible, noticeable and to become involved in the game just like others. ..."