Contributing to the ISO Guidance Principles for Sustainable Metals Recycling in Latin America




Topics: Resource efficiency policies for sustainable cities and lifestyles
Keywords: Recycling, assurance, traceability, stepwise approach, metals

Sonia Valdivia1, Mathias Schluep1, Maria Sureda1, Rolf Widmer2, Ruweyda Stillhart1

1World Resources Forum (WRF), Switzerland; 2Empa, Switzerland;


Whilst collection and recycling of metals (e.g. gold, copper) contained in waste (e.g. used mobile phones, cars) are increasing in micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) and in the informal sector in Latin America as well as in other developing and emerging economies, traceability mechanisms for their sustainable recovery have not yet been developed.

The Guidance Principles (see Figure 1) for the Sustainable Management of Secondary Metals (hereafter, Guidance Principles) are tackling this challenge by providing guidance to economic operators (e.g. individuals, MSME, large enterprises) in addition to governments, standardisation bodies, NGOs and other stakeholders. The Guidance Principles aim to promote sustainable practices when recovering secondary metals and benefit economic operators in the developing and emerging economies with weaker regulations, guidance and enforcement.

Five principles proposed aim to ensure safe, healthy and equitable working conditions; strengthen local community relations and resilience; conserve and protect the environment and natural resources; improve the recovery of secondary metals and implement a sustainable management approach. Principles are complemented with objectives and implementation steps. The Guidance Principles recommend a gradual implementation towards full compliance as well as assurance and traceability (Chain-of-Custody) mechanisms to track and demonstrate compliance.

The Guidance Principles development is supported by the Roundtable on Sustainable Recycling Industries (SRI) and national standardization bodies through an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) / International Workshop Agreement (IWA) process. The process is also aligned to the ISEAL Standard-setting Code and includes 4 working sessions and public reviews.

The paper aims to introduce a draft version to a Latin American audience for feedback including the principles, objectives and implementation steps, assurance and traceability mechanisms, and an outlook on 2017 field testing activities in selected countries, including Latin American ones.


Sonia Valdivia is a Programme Manager at the World Resources Forum since mid August 2014 on the areas of ‘sustainable recycling industries’ and ‘life cycle management’. Before she was Programme Officer at the UNEP Division of Technology, Industry and Economics, and has been coordinating the Secretariat of the UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative. She has a PhD in environmental waste management and policies from the Technical University of Karlsruhe and has worked for organizations such as UNITAR (United Nations Institute for Training and Research), NACEC (North American Center for Environmental Cooperation), INE (Mexican Institute of Ecology) and as a GIZ coordinator of the Pan-American Network for Environmental Waste Management. She is a co-author of the UNEP/SETAC “Guidelines for Social Life Cycle Assessment”, “UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Management – How business uses it to decrease footprint, create opportunities and make value chains more sustainable” and the UNEP publication “Towards Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment.”