High Performance Recycling in Emerging Economies: Making it Work in the Real World

High Performance Recycling in Emerging Economies: Making it Work in the Real World

Anne Scheinberg1, Jeroen IJgosse2

1Springloop Coöperatie U.A., Netherlands, The; 2Manaus, Brazil

“Recycling” means many things, but to public authorities in middle-income countries, it is understood variously as a bad joke, a false promise, or an ideological burden exported from Europe and North America, The modernisation of waste disposal in the last 25 years of the 20th Century delivered successes with high performance recycling in Northwestern Europe, North America, Oceania and Japan which have yet to be proved replicable in emerging economies in Latin America, Southeastern Europe, Africa, Asia, or Pacific or Caribbean SIDS. This paper begins with a comparison of the starting conditions in the 1980s in North America and in emerging economies today, highlighting key similarities and differences in institutions, financing, and governance of waste management. Based on this analysis, ithe second half of the paper presents practical recommendations and examples of successes and failures relevant for developing modern high-performance recycling systems in medium-sized, large, and mega-cities in middle-income countries ranging from the Aruba to Zambia and from Brazil to Serbia. The choice facing cities in these countries is whether to follow the paradigm of municipal recycling that worked in Europe and North America, or to build relationships with the recycling industry to optimise and integrate informal recyclers in inclusive value chain recycling, or to work with global producers and consumer goods companies on inclusive EPR systems; the implications for local and national economic development, fairness, recovery rates, and progress towards the circular economy, will all be explored.