Paulo da Rocha Ferreira Borba
Rosa María Fischer
FEA-USP Sao Paulo
Reciclare, a paper, cardboard, and reusable material recyclers’ association, was created in 1990 by a small group of Guariní City street dwellers who worked as paper recyclers. Supported by Pastoral de Rua2 and determined to secure a more dignified livelihood, Reciclare’s 250 associates and its partners turned waste into a job opportunity, creating collective savings means and earning social inclusion. Reciclare collected, selected, pressed and marketed recyclable materials from the streets and donated by companies and other partners.
This association also offered sewing, woodwork and paper recycling workshops to street dwellers; it organized discussion forums, disseminated and promoted recyclers’ job recognition and initiatives. The social value created by Reciclare by the time this case was written included revenue growth, adequate housing, safer work environments, recyclers’ recognition by city residents and public officials, job training opportunities, elementary education, and professionalization.
This initiative helped recyclers to organize their work better, providing them with more leverage to market recyclable materials as well as safer working conditions. The city’s population started to view recyclers as workers who provided a socially and environmentally relevant service. As a result of this newfound appreciation for their work, Reciclare associates earned a monthly income of US$ 360 –a hefty amount for workers who had had no means to make a living before, surviving in extreme poverty and social exclusion. Reciclare associates earned twice as much as non-affiliated recyclers, making it possible for them to improve their families’ living conditions and educational prospects.
In 2005, as Reciclare’s monthly recyclable material output averaged 390 tons, with an annual net income of US$ 25,902.33, the association still financially depended on City Hall, for 50% of its operations were funded with public resources, especially its social initiatives. In addition, 15% of the recyclable materials collected came from municipal donations.
In order to reduce this dependence, Reciclare needed to increase the economic value created by its recyclable material collection and marketing operations, so that the association could use those revenues to support its social initiatives in a continuous, sustainable fashion. To boost its revenues, Reciclare had to adopt scale-growing strategies that strengthened its leverage in its value chain, while professionalizing its associates, building ties with large recycling companies and public agencies, and raising awareness among city residents so that they would provide a greater recyclable volume.