Active Research

Empowering Chile’s Grassroots Recyclers: The Conecta, Recicla y Colabora Initiative

University of Melbourne

Latin America and the Caribbean generate 231 million tonnes of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) annually, with a dismal 2.2% formally recycled. In Chile, grassroots recyclers, estimated at 60,000, play a crucial role, collecting about 70% of Domestic Solid Waste (DSW) for recycling. Despite their contribution, a 2021 study revealed most recyclers face socioeconomic challenges, including incomes below the minimum wage and lack of pension contributions. With the impending implementation of Chile’s Extended Producer Responsibility Law, which recognizes grassroots recyclers, there’s a significant opportunity for their formal integration into the recycling value chain.

This case study will examine the La Ciudad Posible’s “Conecta, Recicla y Colabora” project which aims to enhance the capabilities of 15 recycling cooperatives and the National Association of Recyclers of Chile (ANARCH), serving as a model for integrating grassroots recyclers into formal systems. This initiative focuses on increasing PET recycling rates, improving infrastructure, and fostering community relationships, benefiting around 200 recyclers and providing services to 500-1000 families per cooperative.