Emmaus Navarre, 50 years of supporting those most in need

Emmaus Navarre, 50 years of supporting those most in need

For over half a century, Emmaus has been a key player in waste treatment in the Navarre region of northern Spain.

Just as was the case for the very first Emmaus community, formed in Paris in 1949, everything in Navarre started due to failures of local social policies along with poorly organised waste treatment systems. The first traperos (Emmaus ragpickers) took note of the situation and decided to take action – starting work on their huge project in the regional capital of Pamplona in 1973.

The companions in this historical community could even be referred to as pioneers when it comes to waste treatment in Navarre. To such an extent that public policies were largely inspired by their activities when they (finally) began to address this issue, driven by increasingly pressing European directives. Faced with growing competition in raw-material recycling from private organisations, the Emmaus group itself started focusing on collecting and repairing used objects. As it currently stands, the Emmaus system has been adopted by 7 different local urban areas, which represents around 3/4 of the regional population.

A social actor and political force

Recognised by local authorities for working directly in the public interest, the traperos of Emmaus Navarre do far more than just recycling work. They support the integration of hundreds of socially excluded individuals. Today, the community boasts more than 270 companions from 30 different countries around the world, with all members being paid the same rate for up to 32.5 hours of work per week, with the maximum working week in Spain being fixed by law at 40 hours. According to José María García Bresó, head of Emmaus Navarre and former president of Emmaus Spain, “this is how we can best share the work and make sure we can hire new people.”.

Aside from their social and ecological work, the traperos also actively fight against the structural causes of poverty, acting to influence local policies. One of their main achievements to date is managing to get a clause included in all public contracts awarded by local authorities in Navarre. Thanks to the traperos, 6% of all works and services contracts must be reserved and distributed to social reintegration organisations, centres focused on employing vulnerable people, and collectives fighting against social exclusion.

This quite clearly corresponds to the 6th demand of our Global Report – “recognising actors of the ethical and solidarity economy and giving them priority”.