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How We Think

Designing Better Systems for a Better World

Environmental crises are affecting the world at a speed and scale never seen before. Solving these systemic problems requires a new approach.

Incubated by McKinsey.org, problem solving is in our DNA.

How We Transform Systems

We dig deep to understand problems—studying what’s wrong, unearthing hidden opportunities, and weaving multiple perspectives into rapid, coordinated action to deliver innovative, inclusive and scalable solutions, with a sense of urgency.

We develop step-by-step solutions that work across the entire value chains of complex systems, resulting in holistic, transformative change.

1. Rethink

We start by identifying the most difficult environmental challenges that affect everyone but are the responsibility of no one—where current systems aren’t working, and where our approach can drive impact at scale. Then we reimagine and rethink the whole system, taking into account the needs of each stakeholder, including the planet.

2. Prove

We create a model for change in a single community, and then iterate with local partners to learn and adapt our model as we expand to multiple geographies. In each location, we move at the speed of trust—with local governments, multinational corporations, and NGOs—to empower our collaborators to sustain success.

3. Scale

We use real-world findings from our pilot programs to build scalable solutions that deliver measurable impact and solve for long-term stability. Our adaptive design process allows us to meet the needs of communities around the world. Working with scaling partners sets us up to achieve meaningful impact on the global waste problem—and beyond.

How We Amplify Impact

We design scalable solutions by establishing partnerships, experimenting only with ideas that have a path to scale, and distilling and documenting what we learn as we go. Another key to scalable impact: our technology.

Our Approach to Technology

We build efficient, exciting ways to interact with people wherever they are in the world. We use technology to create windows for communities to plainly see inside the systems that have traditionally been murky. The residents we work with experience a feeling of digital success, transforming the way they view their communities—as “smart cities” or “smart villages.”

For households and businesses, digital tools provide transparency on waste collection fees, enrollment for waste collection services, answers to sorting questions, nudges to build good sorting habits, and rewards for maintaining those habits.

For collectors and sorting centers, our tools provide digital access to customer records and behaviors, financial performance tools including payment data and tracking systems, and operational reports that can be used to create incentives.

For processors and consumer goods companies, we are in the process of developing tools to ensure a predictable supply of transparently and ethically sourced material.

To learn more about the tech we’re using today and exploring for the future, visit Our Programs.

Where We Work

From Buenos Aires to Bali we are forging partnerships and working to find what is universally true and culturally unique, so that we can scale what works across Latin America and Southeast Asia, with plans to expand to Africa in the coming years.

Indonesia

Program details

We’re working with the local community and partners in Bali to establish and scale integrated waste and recycling systems across Indonesia.

Argentina

Program details

We’re inspiring participation in recycling in Buenos Aires and Olavarría as test cases to scale inclusive recycling solutions across the country.

Latest

Stay informed and inspired with environmental reports, project updates, and stories about systems change from the people making it happen.
New, environmental nonprofit Delterra adopts McKinsey.org’s Rethinking Recycling as its first flagship initiative
Oct 11, 2021 | 4 min read

McKinsey & Company is a founding partner of the environmental nonprofit, and will continue its support of the Rethinking Recycling initiative.

Today the new, independent environmental…

Rethinking Recycling is now the flagship initiative of a new, independent nonprofit Delterra!
Oct 04, 2021 | 1 min read

 

Rethinking Recycling now has a new home – Delterra.

Delterra is an independent environmental non-profit, whose vision is a world where human activities protect…

Meet Rethinking Recycling team members who are making environmentally sustainable choices in their personal lives
Jul 08, 2021 | 6 min read

Happy #PlasticFreeJuly everyone! This month commemorates the growing global movement where individuals are challenged to reduce their everyday consumption of single-use plastic. As you know, our team members help manage…

Rethinking Recycling Academy and Plastic Smart Cities Initiative, partner to transform waste management system in Ubung Kaja, Bali
May 25, 2021 | 4 min read

Denpasar, Indonesia (25/3) – Rethinking Recycling Academy, a recently-launched capacity building program of McKinsey.org, has partnered with Plastic Smart Cities Initiative to transform the waste management ecosystem in the village…

Reimagining Community Education in Bali to drive better Recycling behaviors
Mar 18, 2021 | 4 min read

Recycling in Indonesia is broken. Use of single-use plastic is surging and landfills are overflowing into surrounding communities, causing widespread environmental, economic and social damage. In Bali over 80% of…

Co-designing with the community, for the community in Argentina
Mar 10, 2021 | 3 min read
A behind the scenes look at the launch of GIRO’s first pilot in Olavarría

This week our Argentina team launched their first pilot of the GIRO recycling program in Olavarría. For…

Press Release: CLOCC partners with the Rethinking Recycling Academy to develop digital training materials for recycling and waste management systems in Indonesia
Feb 17, 2021 | 3 min read

Denpasar, Indonesia / Oslo, Norway, February 17, 2021 – Clean Oceans through Clean Communities (CLOCC), owned by Avfall Norge has partnered with the Rethinking Recycling Academy, the recently-launched capacity building program…

Celebrating Women in Science That are Tackling Today’s Global Challenges
Feb 11, 2021 | 7 min read

 

At McKinsey.org, part of our mission and approach to problem solving is “developing, testing and scaling solutions”, so it’s no wonder that our President & CEO, Shannon Bouton, is…

COVID’s Hidden Frontline in Indonesia
Dec 17, 2020 | 3 min read

By: Ella Flaye, Regional Director – Asia

2020 has been an extraordinary year for all us – a year which feels like the world paused whilst it grapples with a global…

2020 Impact: Reimagining Sustainability Systems
Dec 16, 2020 | 1 min read

 

Please note all mentions of McKinsey.org are due to the fact that Rethinking Recycling was incubated and scaled under McKinsey.org for 3 years, before…
Building A New Path Forward in 2020 For Impact in Argentina
Dec 14, 2020 | 5 min read

By: Cristina Domecq, Senior Associate, Behavior Change

Like so many nonprofits around the world, we began 2020 with big plans and high hopes for how we would reshape environmental and…

Breakthrough behavior change: lessons from Civic Response Team in India
Dec 02, 2020 | 10 min read

Behavior change is at the forefront of global discourse like never before, but remains difficult to achieve in practice. Creative strategies developed in emerging-economy contexts, like Civic Response Team’s approach…