Fundación Avina and its allies understand that solid waste management in Latin America is not as effective as it could be. This is evident in the social exclusion of recyclers and informal nature of their work, the environmental pollution caused by waste, the absence of standardization and regulations, the lack of transparency in the recycling value chain, and the lack of proper coordination among key players.
To address this pressing issue, in 2011 the Iniciativa Regional para la Inclusión Económica y Social de los Recicladores (Regional Initiative for Inclusive Recycling) was created to integrate informal recycling collectors into the market for recyclable materials. The Initiative seeks to impact the structure of the regional recycling value chain in order to improve the quality of life of recyclers and their families, increase the participation of the private sector in the recycling market, and encourage informed public policies related to recycling.
The program, which serves as a platform to cultivate multi-sector partnerships among the diverse stakeholders involved in recycling, was formed by a consortium that includes Fundación Avina, the Inter-American Development Bank Multilateral Investment Fund (BID/FOMIN), the IDB Water and Sanitation Initiative, The Coca-Cola Company, Red LACRE, and Pepsico, and receives support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Since its founding, the Initiative’s members have contributed a combined 8.4 million USD toward the program’s goals.
In 2014, the Colombian Ministry of Housing, Cities, and Territories, together with the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development, issued Resolution 0754, which establishes a methodology for the design, implementation, evaluation, monitoring, oversight, and update of local plans for integrated solid waste management.
This resolution also requires mandatory compliance and includes guidelines for every municipality in Colombia to incorporate inclusion programs for recyclers. The legislation also requires municipalities to keep records of recyclers and their organizations, as well as to encourage the creation, formalization, and strengthening of recycling cooperatives by providing technical and financial assistance.
This achievement is one of the institutional milestones that are taking place in Colombia that are leading to a national public policy to ensure the legal recognition of the role of recyclers in sustainable waste management. All of the conditions are in place to scale up formal recognition of the work of recyclers in a country where their experience is typical of the common struggle of recyclers around the world.
In Buenos Aires, the first contract between 12 recycler cooperatives and the city government was signed, giving both parties responsibility for waste collection and sorting. Each cooperative will work in an assigned area and ensure selective collection of waste from households in that area. The city will provide recyclers with uniforms, social security, worker’s compensation, and wages. The local government is committed to making the necessary budget allocations to ensure that each cooperative has the proper tools, logistical support, and facilities to carry out their operations.