Project encouraging recycling in Rio concludes pilot phase with a legacy for waste management in the city

In partnership with BVRio, our project promoting the recovery, collection, and improved destination of plastic waste in Rio de Janeiro through collaboration with local waste cooperatives successfully concluded its pilot phase in March. 

Through the issuance of Plastic Credits funded by the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, 1,985 tonnes of plastic have been collected and sent to recycling or an adequate destination, exceeding the initial target. Moreover, the project has had a lasting impact on waste management practices in the city; it has enabled the participant co-ops to secure more contracts and expand, created jobs for more than 200 informal waste pickers and provided education on good recycling practices for around 11,600 local residents.

Our circular economy specialists evaluated the project’s impact, and determined that Coopama, one of the participant cooperatives, increased its collection rates by four times since the start of the project in June 2022. It invested the funding to lease an additional three vehicles, allowing it to expand operations outside the initial project area and offer collections to other large waste generators, such as restaurants, schools, hotels, cruise ships and events. They also significantly increased the number of premises they can collect from, including the number of supermarkets, which went from 4 to 14 and the number of hospitals, which went from 6 to 12. 

The other participant cooperative, CooperEcológica, recruited 37 waste pickers working on the streets who managed to remove 178 tonnes of hard-to-recycle types of plastic waste from the environment, which were redirected to an adequate destination. Approximately 22 tonnes, or 10% of the 200 tonnes of plastic waste collected, were suitable for recycling, including flexible films, sachets, and pouches.

The social impact was a significant part of the project as it has provided additional income to over 200 informal waste pickers. Coopama increased the number of cooperative members by more than 50%, both in the sorting line inside its warehouse and in external roles. Before the project, there were 107 cooperative members – 34 working in the warehouse and 73 based externally working within large waste generators, such as hospitals –, a number that had increased to 164 by December 2022, when 60 members were working in the warehouse and 104 externally. These 57 new jobs created by Coopama were all with vulnerable communities and/or women.

Through capacity building, infrastructure development and guidance, the project expanded the area covered by selective collection in the city, strengthening the cooperatives’ infrastructure and role. This was possible using the Circular Credits Mechanism (CCM) as a financial tool to certify the amounts collected and the KOLEKT app to track the transactions and engage street waste pickers to remove low-value plastic from the environment.