The GIRO Argentina team conducted door-to-door and online surveys to understand the needs and motivations of residents. They designed, further refined, and evaluated their insights in five pilots, honing components of community education, collection, sorting, and social inclusion with each iteration. Each behaviour change pilot built upon the lessons learnt from earlier ones, creating a blueprint for setting up new collection services.
Residents’ strong values around shared commitments between citizens and government, pride in being a modern city, and openness to recycling became the backbone of the programme that moved the needle.
Familiar and easy-to-use information touchpoints helped to boost confidence and reinforce commitment. This included a WhatsApp-based chatbot which provided quick answers to questions from the community.
The GIRO model starts in each home, where waste is sorted and then left at the kerb on the assigned pickup days. The municipality collects and transports the waste to the right location, with recyclables brought to the GIRO sorting centre. There, recyclables are further separated into categories such as cardboard, glass, and more than 10 categories of plastic. The separated recyclables are sold to the recycling industry while compostable, organic waste is transported to a composting facility to be processed. Mixed waste collected goes to the pre-existing landfill.
By running various pilots, GIRO Argentina managed to push waste separation rates in participating neighbourhoods from 1% to almost 50% in a few months, demonstrating how effective co-created local solutions can be in changing behaviours.
In preparation for its city-wide roll out, a new commercial scale sorting centre and composting plant were built to replace the smaller, proof-of-concept pilot plants. Both started up recently, in May 2023. Rallying the city around recycling has not only introduced circularity to the city; it has turned what was once waste into a resource and created formal jobs for a historically underserved population of waste pickers working at the local landfill.
Delterra also estimates that changing the city’s recycling behaviour will ultimately cost far less than employing waste-sorting technology: US$50 to US$150 for every additional tonne of recyclables delivered per year, compared with US$200 to US$700 for an automated sorting system. It also expects project costs to be recovered within a couple of years through recyclable sales, avoided landfill costs, and earnings from plastic and carbon credits.
GIRO, which builds on a 2019 proof-of-concept in the Barrio Mugica district in Buenos Aires, will be handed over to the municipality once the sorting centre and composting facility are fully operational and collection services are rolled out to the rest of the city.