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The kings of trash

The Poverty-Environment Initiative

In 2004, the non-returnable packaging law was approved. The regulation establishes that companies that put non-returnable containers in circulation to market their products must be held responsible for their environmental impact. They are required to have a Packaging Waste Management Plan that promotes environmental protection and the social inclusion of informal sorters.


The Poverty and Environment initiative of the United Nations Development Program and the United Nations Environment Program, PEI, financed studies that helped to better understand the classification group. How many classifiers there were, what they were like, and where they lived.


Canelones, Flores, Maldonado, Rivera and Rocha are the first departments where the new urban waste management models were launched. Groups of classifiers were formed and began to work accompanied by a Civil Society Organization. The departmental municipalities, the chamber of industry, MIDES and DINAMA provide them with technical, material and financial support. The chamber of industry finances the salaries and the equipment of the classifiers, the departmental governments and DINAMA are in charge of logistics and supervising that everything works properly and MIDES carries out the social accompaniment

The civil society organization accompanies the classifiers in their day-to-day activities in setting up clean circuits for the collection, recycling and sale of containers. It trains them in management, labor rights, social security, labor security and even intra-group communication or sexual and reproductive rights.


In addition, they are trained in cooperativism so that when the group is consolidated, they can become a social or work cooperative and sell their services.


The PEI financed a business plan on how to improve the groups' turnover and how to be financially sustainable.


PEI worked to establish institutional mechanisms necessary for the promotion of sustainable investment in Uruguay. For this purpose, it incorporated personnel with environmental and social profiles to the Planning and Investment Office.


The work carried out by Uruguay in public policies that articulate the fight against poverty with the defense of the environment deserves international attention. The collaboration generated by the packaging law between local governments, the private sector, the Ministry of Housing, Land Management and Environment, and the Ministry of Social Development is an exemplary synergy to achieve truly sustainable human development.

Directed by Marta Baraibar.

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