December 5, 2019

Cooperation through transparency: ReciChain project promotes waste value chain in Brazil

December 5, 2019

Brazil has experienced rapid urban growth in recent years. Today, around nine out of ten Brazilians live in cities. Until recently, the resulting flood of waste landed in the environment or in illegal landfills due to the inadequate disposal infrastructure. At the same time, however, this creates a livelihood for many people with low incomes: The so-called catadores collect recyclable waste such as aluminium cans, PET bottles or electronic parts every day on their own initiative – and sometimes under conditions that are detrimental to their health – and receive remuneration from recyclers for the materials they use. 

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Participants in the Cidade+Recicleiros program take collected waste to a recycling collection point. ReciChain is one of the project’s sponsors.

Since 2010, the Brazilian government has been tackling the problem of the flood of rubbish. The national waste management plan includes the construction of modern landfills and suitable infrastructure, and promotes recycling and waste recovery projects. BASF's Starting Ventures project ReciChain, led by Rafael Viñas, Head of Fundação Espaço Eco South America, and sponsored by Fernando Barbosa, Head of Dispersions, Resins and Additives South America, will also contribute to better waste management in cities across Brazil. It aims to bring together the various players in the value chain, promote recycling and improve the living conditions of waste collectors. 


Creating a value chain from waste collection to waste management

With the national waste management plan, producers of consumer goods were also made responsible: They are obliged to compensate for parts of their usage of packaging material by investing in recycling and waste disposal measures. These measures can include the enhancing of recycling infrastructure or communication activities to raise awareness within their consumers about the correct disposal of household waste. The investment results are materialized by invoices that prove that a certain amount of recycling material has been in fact recycled. These invoices are issued by waste picker cooperatives. To ensure transparency in the waste value chain, ReciChain will connect waste collectors, companies, recyclers and other stakeholders. “It was clear for us that, in many cases, we first had to create the conditions to change waste management sustainably – including training for waste collectors, for example”, says Fernando Barbosa. Together with BASF's partner, the non-governmental organization Recicleiros, waste collectors are trained in the recycling process for their daily work. Besides they receive equipment to improve their capacity of production.


Build capacity to meet demand for a sustainable investment in people and the environment

“One of the challenges of the project is to build capacity in cooperatives through the investments in infrastructure and training. We have to consider that high productivity rates are required from the workers who usually have a low formal or technical education,” says Erich Burger, co-founder of Recicleiros. The training and support program therefore covers four different fields: production, administration, co-operation and teamwork, and advocacy. With a duration of 60 months, the program aims at developing autonomy and independence for cooperatives to make them sustainable. “In addition to the training content, we would like to give the participants a perspective. Many learn to take fundamental responsibility for their work and future during the courses,” says Burger. So far, about 300 waste pickers from five cities have been successfully trained, twelve other cities have just been selected in an announcement 2019. The plan is to reach twelve more cities with the project every coming year.

Transparency through technology: Digital Platform for participants in waste management

“With the first part of the project, we wanted to show how cooperation in the value chain between companies waste collectors and other stakeholders can be shaped,” says Barbosa. In the future, a digital platform will make the path from garbage to certificate more transparent and should also facilitate the financial transfer. The use of blockchain technology is intended to ensure that compliant certificates are available to the paying companies. “We have a long way to go,” says Barbosa. “But we are convinced that the project will enable us to create inclusive jobs, promote the recycling of waste and thus contribute to the sustainable development of the country and the participation of the population in it.”


Birgit Hellmann
Global Sustainability Communications
Last Update December 5, 2019