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Rethinking Recycling

Building rapidly scalable, self-sustaining waste management and recycling ecosystems, that redirect waste into productive use while improving people’s lives.

Rethinking Recycling
Our vision for Indonesia is to transform the waste management ecosystems of thousands of communities, delivering not only recycling but also effective and affordable waste collection services to millions, often for the first time.
Rethinking Recycling
Our vision for Argentina is to build recycling services into existing waste collection ecosystems across the country. We design services to fit within municipal budgets and create value for local communities and the broader economy.
Tackling the global waste crisis

The world is facing a profound waste crisis. Landfills are overflowing, methane emissions from organic waste are dangerously accelerating climate change, and every year 11 million tons of plastic enter the world’s oceans—largely from emerging economies, where over 2 billion people have no access to waste management.

Solving this crisis requires rapid expansion of waste management coverage and recycling markets, alongside a deeper redesign of how we consume. 

- Our Ambition -
We aim to reach 10-15m people and divert 1m ton of waste into productive use by 2025.

Our Theory of Change

We transform the broken system of recycling by fixing the vicious cycle of unreliable demand and poor supply. We address poor supply by developing self-sustaining, community owned recycling programs and unreliable demand by working with corporate players to absorb the supply at a fair price on an ongoing basis.

Our theory of change helps to build scalable solutions that deliver rapid impact. And we do so in collaboration with resident communities, partner organizations, and local governments. In addition, we leverage technology in innovative ways to amplify our impact and improve lives.

Breaking a Vicious Cycle

Waste and recycling systems around the world are under-developed, rife with pollutive and exploitative practices, and there’s little to no transparency or traceability. The situation persists despite ambitious commitments by global corporations and national governments, and valuable commodities in every ton of everyday waste.

The underlying cause? A vicious cycle of insufficient supply and unreliable demand for recyclables. Communities lack the infrastructure to deliver clean, ethically sourced material to recycling markets, while weak demand signals from industry undermine the business case for investing in that infrastructure.

Building a Scalable Solution

Our flagship initiative, Rethinking Recycling, works with communities and industry to create highly productive, financially attractive systems that rapidly increase the amount of material recycled into productive use, including solutions for plastics and organic waste. 

On the supply side, we develop community-owned, self-sustaining waste management systems that produce a reliable stream of high-value recyclables while serving everyone in the community. 

On the demand side, we work with corporate players to build aggregation, traceability, and logistics solutions, and to create local markets to consistently absorb the supply of recycled material at a fair price. 

We reinforce this approach with government support at the right moments and at multiple levels, to enable and sustain the full-scale adoption of successful models.

Achieving Rapid Impact

To date, we are on track to bring recycling and waste management services to nearly a quarter million people in Indonesia and Argentina, most of whom had no previous access to recycling solutions. Our programs have achieved recycling rates higher than those of many US cities and improved the livelihoods of more than 450 waste workers, many of whom are marginalized women. 

What started as proof-of-concepts in 2019 in Argentina and Indonesia have matured into scale-up programs that address entire cities or multiple villages at once. We plan to bring Rethinking Recycling to more countries in the years ahead.

Leveraging Technology to Amplify Impact

We use technology to bring the benefits of recycling to life for stakeholders throughout the ecosystem. Whether it’s a resident learning how to recycle from a chatbot, or a company tracing recycled plastic from bin to new bottle, we bring human-centered design and data transparency to accelerate and sustain our impact.

Waste Warriors

Our work has a lasting impact.
Juan and Adrian: “Waste is a Family Business”

Juan (left) and Adrian (right) are relatives from Olavarría and have been working in waste since they were 14 and 12 years old, along with their fathers and brothers. Growing up and into their adulthood, Juan and Adrian would go to the landfill every day unless weather conditions prevented them from working. However, like so many workers all over the world, the COVID-19 pandemic upended their ability to visit the landfill and sort through waste. Due to restrictions at the landfill, fewer people were allowed to work at a time, and Juan and Adrian could no longer perform the work that their families depended on. 

Thankfully, Juan and Adrian were able to find work with Rethinking Recycling’s GIRO recycling and composting plants in Olavarría. At the GIRO recycling plant, Juan and Adrian are able to work in a cleaner environment and receive formal, regular payments for their work. 

Now they are in their 30s with young families of their own, Juan and Adrian have a deeper appreciation for the work they have been doing since they were in their early teens. Both men hope that the city will continue to increase its understanding of recycling and how proper recycling practices can improve living conditions for countless Argentinians.

“It is the job that we have been doing all our lives, but in a more orderly way, in a good work environment.”

- Juan
Barrio Mugica
Ximena: “Recycling Starts with the First Conversation”

Ximena has been working with our Buenos Aires “A Todo Reciclaje” (ATR) program for over three years and says her “most beautiful” experience with the program has been talking with her neighbors about recycling. Prior to the ATR program, a lot of Ximena’s neighbors did not know how to separate their waste into three categories (organics, recyclables and mixed waste) at home, and how much usable waste they were throwing away.  

Today, Ximena talks about recycling everywhere she goes–whether it is with her children at home or when she is volunteering at youth activities. As the program continues to grow, Ximena hopes the Barrio will continue to see improvements from recycling and more interest in waste work. 

“There were a lot of people that wanted to work in [waste] and now they have the right platform to do it.”

- Ximena
Barrio Mugica
Lucia: “Rotation Makes the Job Fun”

Lucia is a devoted grandmother who has been working in waste for over nine years, three with our Buenos Aires  “A Todo Reciclaje” (ATR) program. Prior to the ATR program, Lucia only had one task: sweeping up the streets. Once the ATR program was implemented, Lucia was able to have more interaction with her neighbors about recycling and each team member rotated tasks every week-providing Lucia with more hands-on opportunities to get involved and learn more about recycling. 

Lucia now earns extra income from her waste work, which is especially helpful given the financial challenges many families have experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Any extra income is a help,” Lucia shares. 

We did not have direct interaction with neighbors so they did not know the way we worked and, as a result, waste collection and sweeping was total chaos.”

- Lucia
Barrio Mugica
Yrma: “When Recycling Becomes a Passion”

A three-year veteran of our Buenos Aires “A Todo Reciclaje” (ATR) program, Yrma admits she’s become a bit obsessed about recycling. Working in waste since 2015, Yrma has seen first-hand how the ATR program made the neighborhood much cleaner and streamlined the work for her and her colleagues.

Outside of recycling and her work with the ATR program, Yrma operates her own laundry and plans for the future of her small business.

Every recyclable material that I see lying on the street I want to collect and recycle!”

- Yrma
Pak Siswoyo and Bu Siti: “A Husband and Wife Recycling Team”

Pak Siswoyo started out as a farmer in the small village of Desa Kenkong, but later moved to Bali with the hope he would find a different future for himself. However, when a career in tourism did not materialize, Pak Siswoyo found work as a waste picker – an informal position where he would sort through discarded plastic for an income. 

Through the Desa Kedas program, started by the Rethinking Recycling initiative, Pak Siswoyo was able to transition from an informal position to a formal position with better pay. 

Pak Siswoyo’s wife, Bu Siti, was working as a domestic helper when she decided to join her husband at TPS3R Sekar Tanjung recycling center. Today, the couple works side-by-side and are both considered ‘irreplaceable’ by their team members.

“Now, we are proud garbage men.”

- Pak Siswoyo
Pak Siswoyo and Bu Siti: “A Husband and Wife Recycling Team”

Pak Siswoyo’s wife, Bu Siti, was working as a domestic helper when she decided to join her husband at TPS3R Sekar Tanjung recycling center. Today, the couple works side-by-side and are both considered ‘irreplaceable’ by their team members. 

Through the Rethinking Recycling initiative, the entire village has united to champion the recycling program, with Pak Sis and his waste worker colleagues encouraging a new era of families to separate waste at source and divert it from landfill.

When they are not working together at the recycling center, Pak Siswoyo and Bu Siti enjoy farming and have planted different herbs at TPS3R Sekar Tanjung.

“No matter what problems we face, Rethinking Recycling works with us to find a solution.”

- Bu Siti

Our Partners

Our partner-first philosophy is built on the belief that we can only realize our ambitions together. The support of our partners and sponsors makes the impact we’re driving possible.
Almado is an Argentina-based consultancy and social enterprise that helps organizations develop strategies and solutions to social challenges that have high social, environmental and economic impact and return on investment. Almado brings deep experience and relationships from working with both informal settlement communities, as well as private sector and impact investors. By collaborating with other cooperatives, city governments, and social enterprises, Almado hopes solutions like this can be quickly scaled up across and beyond Argentina.

Bintix Waste Research is a Hyderabad, India-based company and works in the field of waste management and recycling. Bintix believes that the optimal use of technology-driven operations optimisation is a key towards making waste management a more sustainable endeavour, both at the generator level (e.g. households) and at the processor-level (e.g. waste management entities). Bintix’s existing software has been field tested for nearly 2 years now and has been fine-tuned extensively across a customer base consisting of 5000+ customers in several cities/regions and has helped meticulously track and recycle>200 MT of waste into more than 30 streams.

Badung Regency
Bali Government
City of Buenos Aires – Secretariat of Social and Urban Integration
The Secretariat for Social and Urban Integration of the City of Buenos Aires is undertaking an ambitious project to transform Barrio 31, one of the oldest informal settlements in the city, by improving access to education, health and economic opportunities; and ensuring basic services and adequate housing. The project also focuses on improving public spaces and developing innovative strategies to encourage better economic, cultural and social integration between Barrio 31 and other areas of Buenos Aires.
Clean Oceans through Clean Communities
Clean Oceans through Clean Communities (CLOCC) is an initiative by Avfall Norge, with ISWA as implementing partner. CLOCC is supported by Norad, and is a part of the Norwegian government’s development programme to reduce marine plastic pollution and microplastics. CLOCC’s partners include InSWA (Indonesia Solid Waste Association), Rethinking Recycling Academy and SYSTEMIQ. CLOCC’s objective is to reduce marine plastic pollution through improving waste management on land.
Established in 2006, ecoBali is a waste management company working in the south of Bali, Indonesia. The organization works to encourage a zero-waste lifestyle and promote responsible waste management through the collection, recycling and composting of waste. It operates its own Material Recovery Facility,conducts educational programs in schools and communities, and designs and markets eco-friendly products. EcoBali has developed tailored programs in waste management (including Waste Banks), environmental education and sustainable lifestyle, and has established extended producer responsibility programs together with companies such as Tetra Pak, The Body Shop, AQUA and Bali Buda.
Indonesian Ministries

Olavarría is located in the center of the Province of Buenos Aires and was founded on November 25, 1867. It has numerous green spaces and a large park that borders the Tapalqué Stream. Due to its strategic position, it has a great influence that has favored its growth. There is a balance between the harmony of a town and the hustle and bustle of a big city, generating an ideal environment to rest and/or to be able to choose to enjoy several activities to do and to feel new experiences in the free times. That is why the management of the environment and the improvement in the quality of life of its population is a strategic issue for the city.

RIL – Red de Innovación Local
RIL (from their name in spanish Red de Innovación Local) is a non-partisan and non-profit civil association that works with local government teams with the objective of enhancing their management capabilities and strengthening their transformative power to improve the quality of life of their citizens and help them develop. RIL works in Argentina with more than 1,400 local officials from 280 cities, 69 cities from other 11 countries in Latin America and 20 cities from Europe and Africa. The cities that are part of the network have access to programs and tools to turn into collaborative, innovative, efficient, sustainable, and digital cities.
Second Muse
Second Muse believes that economies are easily shaped and influenced in their infancy, so they start by supporting entrepreneurs and the ecosystems around them. They do this by engaging participants and organizations through a mix of innovation programming (hackathons, incubators, accelerators), supporting ecosystem development, and designing and distributing investment funds.
SYSTEMIQ is a systems change company that partners with business, finance, policy-makers, and civil society to make economic systems truly sustainable. We combine high-level research with high-impact, on-the-ground work. We’re a “think-and-do” tank that sparks good disruptions and operates with purpose at our core.
Waste 4 Change
Waste 4 Change is focused on changes in the Responsible Waste Management Ecosystem Based on Collaboration and Technology Towards the Implementation of a Circular Economy and a Waste-Free Indonesia
World Business Council For Sustainable Development (wbcsd)
WBCSD is the premier global, CEO-led community of over 200 of the world’s leading sustainable businesses working collectively to accelerate the system transformations needed for a net-zero, nature positive, and more equitable future.
The Alliance to End Plastic Waste
The Alliance to End Plastic Waste is an international non-profit partnering with government, environmental and economic development NGOs and communities around the world to address the challenge to end plastic waste in the environment. Through programmes and partnerships, the Alliance focuses on solutions in four strategic areas: infrastructure, innovation, education and engagement, and clean up. As of January 2021, the Alliance has more than 50 member companies and supporters representing global companies and organisations across the plastic value chain. For more information, visit:
Amcor is a global leader in developing and producing responsible packaging for food, beverage, pharmaceutical, medical, home and personal-care, and other products. Amcor works with leading companies around the world to protect their products and the people who rely on them, differentiate brands, and improve supply chains through a range of flexible and rigid packaging, specialty cartons, closures, and services. The company is focused on making packaging that is increasingly light-weighted, recyclable and reusable, and made using an increasing amount of recycled content. Around 46,000 Amcor people generate $13 billion in annual sales from operations that span about 225 locations in 40-plus countries.
Avfall Norge
Avfall Norge organizes the Norwegian recycling industry and their stakeholders across geography and sectors. We represent over 200 different companies that work in waste management, recycling and recycled raw materials. Our members are IKSs / municipalities, private recycling companies, recycling companies, entrepreneurs, suppliers and consultants.
Minderoo Foundation
Minderoo Foundation Established by Andrew and Nicola Forrest in 2001, Minderoo Foundation is a modern philanthropic organization seeking to break down barriers, innovate and drive positive, lasting change. Minderoo Foundation is proudly Australian, with key initiatives spanning from ocean conservation and ending slavery, to collaboration against cancer and building community projects.
Plastic Smart Cities
Plastic Smart Cities is a WWF initiative working with cities worldwide to keep plastic out of nature. Since 2018, the initiative supports cities and coastal centres that are taking bold action to stop plastic pollution. WWF is working with 25 pilot cities to achieve a 30% reduction in plastic leakage by 2025, through better waste management and advancing circular economy. Together, we aim to achieve 1000 plastic-smart cities globally to join this movement by 2030. For more information, visit
PRAISE, the Packaging and Recycling Association for Indonesia Sustainable Environment, is an alliance established by six founding companies—Coca-Cola, Danone, Indofood, Nestlé, Tetra Pak, and Unilever Indonesia. Its purpose is to create and enable a sustainable ecosystem that transforms packaging waste into a high value resource, bringing economic, social, and environmental benefits to Indonesia.
Together, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation generally provide more than $1 billion in cash and in-kind to support programs that align with their philanthropic priorities. They focus on areas where we can do the most good - combining the unique strengths of the business alongside our philanthropy.