In Maria da Graça in north Rio de Janeiro, waste pickers from the Coopama cooperative, recognisable by their forest green tee-shirts, haul themselves onto collection trucks that fan out towards shopping malls, schools, hospitals, and condominiums in the neighbourhood.
Since Alliance funding allowed for three rental trucks to be added to their existing one in mid-2022, Coopama’s operations have expanded dramatically, with the cooperative doubling the number of its collection points, and collecting four times the amount of recyclables.
Under the BVRio initiative led by Circular Action BV, residential and commercial enterprises that have separated waste available for pick up can post this online via the waste trading app KOLEKT. Once alerted, the cooperative sends a truck to make the collection. The recyclables are then sorted, baled, and sold to aggregators and recyclers, with the proceeds kept by the cooperative.
Brazil is the world’s fourth largest producer of plastic waste, and Rio de Janeiro, its second largest city, generates more than 9 thousand tonnes of municipal solid waste per day. Of this, just 0.5% is diverted from landfills. Waste pickers are responsible for 90% of the recovery of recyclables, usually on foot, dragging carts, or on motorbikes.