Nohra Padilla is one of six individuals to be awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize, an award that has been given for 24 years to individuals across the world who have effectively used grassroots efforts to address environmental issues.
Waste management is a major issue in Colombia and its capital city of Bogotá, as much of recyclable materials are simply thrown in with waste in landfills. Most of the recycling that does occur in Colombia is done by “waste pickers,” a marginalized group of people who make their meager living from sorting through trash piles for recyclable items.
Norah Padilla Herrera has been recycling since she was 7 years old, and after she made her way up to a leadership position in the waste-picking community in Bogota, she organized her fellow recyclers into cooperatives. These developed into two organizations: the Association of Recyclers of Bogota (ARB), and the National Association of Recyclers in Colombia (ANR), which have had major successes in fighting for the rights of recyclers in Bogotá.
Padilla has been pushing for recycling to become a recognized profession with the rights and protection of any other job. In 2011, she won a hearing before the Constitutional Court of Colombia, and now waste management contracts in Bogotá are to provide job opportunities to informal recyclers.
Due to Padilla’s efforts, recyclers are now recognized stakeholders in Bogotá’s waste management system. They are now paid for their services, and recycling is now a required practice in the city of Bogotá.