To support the development of the recycling industry and improve working and living conditions for waste pickers in Argentina, the 'Cartoneros' project is professionalizing cooperatives, investing in the infrastructure of recycling cooperatives and building the capacity of large generators to increase recycling rates. Cartoneros tackles social, economic and environmental issues at the same time. The project was created with support from the Danone Ecosystem Fund, Aguas Danone de Argentina and its local partners, the Regional Initiative for Inclusive Recycling (IRR) and Fundación Avina.
Why does it matter?
Following the 2001 crisis in Argentina, many people lost their jobs and became waste pickers to support their families. Except in Buenos Aires where public policies exist, most waste pickers work informally, under poor safety conditions.
How does it work?
'Cartoneros' is a key project that tackles social, economic and environmental issues. It is increasing recycling rates from large waste generators and sustainably connecting them with the cooperatives, as well as investing in infrastructure, including several recycling sorting facilities in Buenos Aires and Mendoza operating under a cooperative model. The scheme provides both cooperatives and large waste generators with training and offers technical assistance to the cooperatives. Local partners work closely with public authorities, supporting the implementation of policies that recognize the contribution of waste pickers. It allows the production of recycled PET and takes part in a social responsibility approach.
How does this project create value?
'Cartoneros' empowers waste pickers through management, safety and life skill trainings. It helps them secure a fair wage along with better living and working conditions. The project contributes to the organization and professionalization of Argentina’s recycling industry, thus increasing recycling rates. In the middle to long run, this will also positively impact the environment.
“In 2001 I lost my job. Because I don’t know how to read and write, and because of my age, I couldn’t find another job. I started to rent a waste picking trolley and worked with other waste pickers in the streets of Buenos Aires. It was very hard, I used to sleep beside the railway tracks, being very cold. Until I started working at the Cooperative El Alamo 10 years ago. With this job I can keep my children safe, I can pay for their education and medicines. Thanks to the cooperative I was able to build my own house. After many years of struggle and hard work, I have never given up, I moved forward, I fought, and I continue fighting.”
Omar, recuperadores urbanos, El Alamo cooperative, Novo Ciclo Argentina.
(in the picture above)
Photo credit: Jean Christophe Laugee