Running for recyclers, a socially-distanced marathon

By Jennifer Bitterly May 21, 2020

Tomorrow, May 22, support a local-led project “Recycling Love” through a run-a-thon fundraiser sponsored by the British Embassy.

Photo by sporlab on Unsplash

Driving through the neighbourhoods in Usme, an Orange Volkswagon delivers one hundred brightly-coloured boxes labelled “Basic Groceries” to elderly residents. “I feel happy that you have kept us in mind, because there are many of us elderly folks, and aside from that we are also the heads of our households,” a woman on the video says, blinking away tears. “And we don’t have anyone to help us.” An elderly man pulls his face into a gap-toothed grin, saying, “Thank you. You are the type of people that Colombia needs.”

These aren’t just elderly folks: They are recyclers, workers who make their living from collecting and recycling waste throughout the city. During the nationwide lockdown, they have been confined to their homes and cannot make daily wages.

Marce la Recicladora “the Recycler” decided to help. A young YouTuber who frequently posts educational videos about recycling and upcyling in Bogotá, Marcela is the first “recycler” to go viral on social media. She’s coined the term “reciclamores” – a combination of the words “recycle” and “love” in Spanish – to refer to her recycling coworkers and anyone who consciously recycles their waste.  

“We have listened to the needs of our reciclamores; almost all of them need basic groceries to get by during these days when they cannot leave to work,” Marce explains in a video on her YouTube channel, which holds over 28,000 subscribers. From these calls to action, a project called “Recycling Love” was born.

Recycling Love delivers essential groceries to elderly recyclers who have no income during the national health emergency generated by the pandemic. One month ago, Marce and her team delivered the first 100 packages to struggling recyclers in the northwest of Bogotá.

Now, they have a larger goal: Deliver 500 packages to elderly recyclers in need. And this time, they have the British Embassy to back them up.

“The Embassy works with a number of different good causes throughout the year, and on this occasion–actually by popular vote amongst our staff–we chose to work with Marce la Recicladora” explains the British Ambassador to Colombia Colin Martin-Reynolds CMG. “Not only is she an admirable campaigner, who has given a voice to this often-marginalised community, but she also promotes sustainability, which is a cornerstone of our work here in Colombia.”

Read our latest coverage on the coronavirus in Colombia

The British Embassy has created the #UKCoRUNaThon, a running fundraiser in which proceeds will be donated to Marce the Recycler’s “Recyling Love” campaign. Participants can donate the suggested COP$50,000, roughly 10 pounds, or an amount of their choosing through the Embassy’s Vaki page. It has already received funding for 100 grocery packs, and is motivated to raise more money tomorrow.

So where does the jogging come in? Participants are asked to run for recyclers by jogging or walking one kilometre tomorrow, Friday, May 22. Whether from Colombia, the UK, or elsewhere around the world, all contributors are encouraged to upload photos or videos of their socially-distanced marathon in support of the Recycling Love project and raise awareness about the fundraiser.

As Martin-Reynolds explains: “With Colombia being our home – and Bogotá our home city – we wanted to start off by doing something to support vulnerable communities right here in the capital. And at the same time, we wanted to raise money by doing something fun whilst we are all in lockdown, something to bring us all together, albeit virtually – Brits in Colombia, Colombians, Colombiaphiles in the UK, the more the merrier!”

Grab your running shoes, put on a mask, and run one kilometre tomorrow in support of elderly recyclers – after you donate to the project of course. If running outside isn’t your cup of tea, you can take a page from Captain Tom Moore’s book and walk laps around your garden or apartment. Those who are averse to exercise are welcome to donate, as well – jogging isn’t compulsory to contribute to a deserving cause.