Case Study: Initiative for Inclusive Recycling

December 5, 2018

In 2011, the Iniciativa Regional para el Reciclaje Inclusivo (IRRI) was established between the Multilateral Investment Fund, the Inter-American Development Bank – Water and Sanitation Division, Coca-Cola Latin America, the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Recyclers, and the Avina Foundation. In 2015, PepsiCo Latin America joined and became a regional partner of the IRRI.

These partners came together to launch a regional initiative that focused on the socio-economic conditions of waste pickers and the improvement of waste management systems. “In Latin America we spend around 40-50% of municipal budgets on waste management but only 2% of the cities in the region have formal recycling systems” Gonzalo Roqué, the IRRI director noted. Roqué further explained that the initiative is working towards implementing policy changes that promote recycling and the recognition and inclusion of waste pickers as part of the waste management value chain, since they are already delivering a public service.

IRRI has two sources of funding: 1) regional partners (Inter-American Development Bank, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo) that pool money into the general fund and are part of the Board, and 2) organizations that fund specific projects at a national level. Using these funds, IRR makes grants to support strategic projects, provide technical assistance, exchange of experiences, and capacity building for the main stakeholders of the agenda (waste pickers, local governments, and private sector), develop different tools to strengthen processes, increase knowledge management by contracting studies, and advance strategic communications to gain visibility for inclusive recycling. Highlighting the strengths of the collaborative, Roqué noted, “We have a confluence of interest. The IDB has particular interest on waste management, with a portfolio of loans for over 600 millions in the region; companies have an interest in recycling to help mitigate the impact of their waste and bottles and to address circular economy. At the same time, they want to have a social impact on the waste pickers.”

Thanks to this collaboration, IRRI has achieved a greater impact at both the grassroots and regional levels. IRR has worked with governments and waste management systems in over 15 countries. From June 20, 2016 through March 31, 2018, IRRI documented increases in the number of waste pickers being recognized in municipal waste management (+6,018), municipalities formalizing waste pickers in their policies (+41), and businesses incorporating the purchase of recycled materials (+12). The ultimate achievement, according to IRR, is waste pickers being paid for their service. Not only is IRR advancing systemic changes in the waste management sector, by collaborating with governments, companies, and waste pickers cooperatives, but it also plans to help the region address circular economy, approaching innovation on the demand side of the recycling value chain.

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