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Environment > Season 02 > Ali Mendillioglu

Date: 11.11.2010 (Season 2 - Episode 6)

Ali Mendillioglu Advocates the Rights of Recycle Workers

On 11 November 2010, Sabanci Foundation's "Turkey's Changemakers" program hosts Ali Mendillioglu, a recycle worker who organizes other recycle workers to advocate for their rights.

Calling himself a recycle worker, Ali 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 from the streets, they are right next to the garbage containers where cars are parked, yet they are the most invisible.

A 2004 regulation regulates the recycling process and authorizes the municipalities and licensed firms to do the recycling in Turkey. However problems in the implementation causes the recycle workers; who do this work out of despair, fill in the gap. It is the conditions of unemployment, internal migration, crime and many other social and economic problems of Turkey which force people to work as recycle workers in Turkey. They have nothing but the garbage to turn into to make a living. In this sense, it is not a voluntary choice but a last resort. The irony is that what is garbage in one household creates an income for another.

Within this context, Ali Mendillioglu, a recycle worker himself, helps to promote the problems of recycling process and recycle workers on Turkey's agenda. Establishing a union with 400 active members and creating a Facebook group with 2.753 fans, Ali Mendillioglu aims to serve one single purpose: to create a space for voices to be heard. For 8 years, he has been publishing a periodical for and by the workers. At its 9th volume, a recycle worker states his opinion as such: "Most people just turn their faces away from us, it is always us, who stay out of the life, the game. What we want is to become visible, noticeable and involve in the game just like others..."

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