Waste management is defined as a public service in Latin American legal systems, therefore the state defines the rules for waste management systems. But these public management systems interact constantly with markets that use recyclable materials as inputs to generate economic value. Society’s role is also important. Either as a citizen or consumer, each member of our society shares responsibility for the waste he or she produces.


Photo: Tatiana Cardeal

Millions of recyclers across the region are still socially excluded and
economically exploited.

Recyclers Provide a Public Service

There are millions of people in Latin America working in waste management through recycling initiatives, the majority of them in the informal sector. Despite this valuable contribution to their community and the environment, millions of these recyclers in our region are marginalized and exploited by the recycling industry even as they create value.


An overhaul of the waste industry to promote recycling and create a recognized role for recyclers would offer a solution with social, environmental and economic benefits. The creation of a sustainable and inclusive model of waste management offers an opportunity for impact across the entire region.


What Avina does for Inclusive Recycling


Watch the CATA- AÇÃO animated video about recycling in Latin America.

Achieving the goal of inclusive recycling not only requires public policies to promote separation of solid waste but also the formalization of recycling activities. The market has to become more transparent, efficient and inclusive by recognizing the recyclers as an essential link in the chain of value creation. Only then will the recycler’s labor and human rights be respected, and steps taken to provide fair pay for their services.

Avina seeks to recognize and strengthen the recycler’s role in a comprehensive approach to solid waste management. We work with the recycling industry to meet its potential to create simultaneously more economic value, increased environmental benefits and decent work for the greatest possible number of recyclers.

To this effect, Avina and its allies have developed a strategy aimed at:

  1. Promoting the creation and implementation of public policies and regulations that recognize and strengthen the role of recyclers in sustainable systems of waste management.
  2. Raising the added value of recycling organizations — with close attention to management and production — to advance social responsibility, inclusive business and a new economy.
  3. Fostering leadership development and effective organization among associations of recyclers.


These were some of the results recorded in the Opportunity for Impact of Inclusive Recycling in 2012:


Empowering Recyclers

In Argentina, the Recycling with Inclusion pilot project developed and implemented a management system adapted for cooperatives of urban collectors of recyclable material. In keeping with the development of a social business that delivers a public service, the project’s goal is to create a software program that these Argentine cooperatives can use to manage data and information. The project began with El Álamo cooperative and expanded to six other cooperatives. In alliance with the Njambre incubator, it is inspired by the development of the Cata Fácil software program in Brazil.


The Cuenca Urban Recyclers Association (ARUC) in Ecuador saw a 150% increase in revenue from sales of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles as a direct result of participating in the green tax system developed by the national tax collection agency. Under the arrangement, recyclers can sell PET bottles back to the industry at a premium price. To gain access to the new pricing system, the ARUC registered with Ecuador’s Ministry of Productivity and met all the requirements to operate as recipients and sellers of PET bottles.

Likewise, in Totonicapán, Guatemala, 28 communities in three municipalities advanced in implementing their business plans during the third phase of an initiative led by the Central American Bottling Corporation (CABCORP), a Pepsi bottling company. The goal is to reuse PET and create businesses that will benefit the recyclers. The initiative was supported by PepsiCo, Fundación Avina, Earth Communities and the Argidius Foundation. It was developed by FUNDES, which selected and trained a team of environmental promoters, creating 187 new jobs that mainly benefited local indigenous women (82% of the newly employed), who are normally excluded from the labor market in the department of Totonicapán.


In these three cases, Avina provided technical assistance, financing, strategic support and connections between allies in order to achieve these results.


Photo: Oscar Fergutz

In Buenos Aires, 13 urban recyclers' cooperatives were awarded contracts
to deliver recycling services across the city.  

Formalizing the
Work of Recyclers in Buenos Aires

After a year of preparing and negotiating for the waste management contract of the City of Buenos Aires, 13 urban recycling cooperatives won the bid for the city’s solid waste collection.

The contract-signing by each of these cooperatives formalized the commitment to provide services throughout the city during a four-year period. The contract marks a milestone in the process of organizing and formalizing the work of recyclers, as this is the first time in Latin America that the key role of recyclers as providers of public services has been recognized for an entire city.


As a result, a job that has been carried out by Buenos Aires recyclers without any regulations for many years is now co-managed by the state and the cooperatives—meaning that the work of recyclers in Buenos Aires is now formalized, a strong public commitment to recycling and the social acceptance of recyclers.

Countries where Avina’s Inclusive Recycling Opportunity for Impact operates



Our main allies and co-
investors for this Opportunity for Impact in 2012 were: