Avina and its allies seek to reorganize the recycling industry in order
to generate dignified and financially profitable work for more than
two million recyclers.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Who are the Main Protagonists?

In developing countries, millions of collectors of recyclable material (paper, cardboard, glass, metal and plastic) venture out daily to sift through tons of garbage in order to support themselves and their families.

Recycling contributes to conservation and rationed use of natural resources, the creation of economic value and a decrease of waste, raising efficiency and reducing environmental damage. Throughout Latin America, informal recyclers, sometimes called “waste pickers,” are the key protagonists in the recycling process. Most of them work independently without formal recognition or legal protections.

Despite their valuable contribution to recycling in the region, waste pickers are generally excluded from the societies they benefit and are financially vulnerable, lacking the political influence to improve their situation. Fortunately, thanks to their determination and the power of joining forces, the situation has begun to change in their favor.


Acknowledge, Motivate and Promote Recyclers’ Work

At Fundación Avina we see sustainable and replicable solutions that can help improve the conditions of two million recyclers in Latin America. Working with a wide array of allies, we want to reorganize the recycling industry in the region to generate decent and financially profitable jobs for the recyclers. We also seek to increase benefits for the environment and society in general through joint actions involving the public sector, companies and recycling cooperatives.

The strategy that Avina has developed with its allies focuses on: 1) promoting the establishment and implementation of public policies and regulatory frameworks that recognize and strengthen the recyclers’ role in a sustainable waste management system; 2) fostering the recycling value chain, with special emphasis on social responsibility and inclusion in the recycling business, and 3) encouraging the development of the leadership and the organizing capacity of recycling associations.


Transformation of the Recycling Market

Fundación Avina and its allies believe that waste management in Latin America is not nearly as effective as it could be. This is evident in the social exclusion and informality of recyclers, environmental contamination, absence of standards and regulations for the implementation of public policies, the absence of market information and transparency in the recycling chain, and a lack of proper coordination between sectors.

It is in this context that a “Regional Initiative for Inclusive Recycling” was officially launched in May of 2011, a program that seeks to include informal waste collectors in the recycling market. The objective of the initiative is to create systematic impact in the recycling chain of the region to improve the quality of life of the recyclers and their families, increase the participation of the private sector in the recycling market, and align public policies

Fundación Avina and the Multilateral Investment Fund (FOMIN) of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) designed this initiative with the participation of the Water and Sanitation Services division of the IDB and The Coca-Cola Foundation, and it has the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The “Regional Initiative for Inclusive Recycling” is scheduled to be carried out within the next four years, and it has the partners’ investment commitment for a total of USD 8.4 million. Its goal is to create an organizational platform in the region that brings together groups involved in waste management and recycling with proponents of recycling associations and cooperatives. The result of years of shared learning and dialog among members, the alliance will create an infrastructure for replicating successful policy and innovation across Latin America.



In Brazil, the collection of recyclable material is gaining
recognition as an activity that is valued and deserving of
government support. There are 500 recycling organizations in
the country that bring together more than 60,000 people.

A Transforming Idea that Starts
in Brazil

In 2011, one example of a policy success at the national level was the creation of a national incentive that benefits recycling associations in Brazil. During the administration of Brazilian president Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, the National Movement of Recyclers and Recyclable Material (MNCR) began a series of negotiations to encourage companies to work together with recycling organizations in waste processing. In the process of implementing a new national policy on solid waste management, the current president of Brazil, Dilma Rouseff, promulgated in November of last year a decree that offers a deduction on the Federal Excise Tax (Impuesto sobre Productos Industrializados, or IPI) for companies that use recycled waste for raw materials or semi-processed products if they can be directly traced to recycling associations and cooperatives. This creates a federal incentive that encourages recycling and incorporates local recyclers into the national value chain.

Fundación Avina has supported the activity of MNCR since 2003, targeting its efforts and financial resources to increasing the participation and influence of organized recyclers in the formulation of public policy related to solid waste management.



Juan Aravena, manager of the Recyclers Association
(Cooperativa de Recicladores, or CREACOOP) of Chile, is
one of millions of recyclers in Latin America who contribute
to economic value creation and to waste reduction.

Inclusive Recycling Gains Momentum in Chile

In mid 2010, the Chilean government started a new trend in waste management policy, when it invested close to a million dollars in inclusive recycling pilot initiatives in two regions and 25 communities in the country. With the twofold objective of reducing waste and generating effective mechanisms to include recyclers in sustainable waste management, these funds will promote the development of local and provincial plans to include around 2,000 organized recyclers of the Metropolitan and the Antofagasta Regions who will enjoy the benefits of official recognition for their work.

The public program, “Integral Management of Solid Waste,” has existed in Chile since 2008 as a result of a loan between Chile and the IDB, contracted by the government’s Under-Secretariat of Regional Development. Although its objective is “to provide solutions for the management of household solid waste,” until 2010, it had not found its way to supporting recycling associations. The first three significant public investments in the recycling field were presented by the association of municipalities, Santiago Recycles, the municipality of La Reina and the municipality of Antofagasta. They financed two feasibility studies and infrastructure investments with components that include organized recyclers at the grassroots level.

These advances are the result of positioning efforts and influence that the National Movement of Chilean Recyclers (MNRCh) has carried out beginning in 2008, in alliance with Fundación Avina and a series of organizations, institutions and companies. Avina supported the positioning strategy of the inclusive recycling agenda in Chile and the influence of MNRCh, the broadening and diversification of the social capital with regard to this agenda and its exposure in the media.

Our main regional allies and co-investors in this opportunity are:
  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: joint investment of USD 5 million over five years for initiatives in Latin America and the Caribbean which seek to strengthen the Latin American Recyclers Movement.
  • The Coca-Cola Foundation, the Inter-American Development Bankand the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation: a joint investment of USD 7.9 million in four years for the “Cata-Ação” initiative in Brazil.
  • Pepsico, the Inter-American Development Bank, Ministério de Desenvolvimento Social e Combate ao Fome and Fundación Trabajo y Desarrollo Humano (TDH): joint investment of USD 1.1 million over three years for the “Social and Financial Inclusion of Recyclable Materials Collectors” initiative in Argentina.
  • Fonds Danone pour l’Écosystème: joint investment of EUR 2 million over two years for the “Waste Collectors: Inclusive Recycling” initiative in Argentina.
  • The Inter-American Development Bank, The Coca-Cola Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: joint investment of USD 8.4 million over four years for the “Regional Initiative for Inclusive Recycling” program.