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ViraSer Program - Shared responsibility in waste management

The ViraSer Program started in 2015 with projects aimed at the development of recyclable material collectors cooperatives. Since then, it has been working with these cooperatives, strengthening governance, productive efficiency, environmental education, marketing and infrastructure of material sorting centers. The program acts in an integrated manner with Brazilian industries, responsible for the generation of packaging and, consequently, recyclable waste; local governments responsible for selective collection and municipal landfills; municipal consortia; cooperatives and population in general. Since 2018 the Program has been developing a new strategy of action, seeking solutions in the creation of sorting centers in smaller municipalities in Brazil.

Objective of the practice

In its cooperation with cooperatives, the ViraSer Program has as one of its main objectives the socio-productive inclusion and professionalization of waste pickers, through gradual targets for increasing income, volume of recycled material and consequent integration of new jobs. Historically garbage collectors have more female workers than men, and in 78% of the cooperatives now accompanied by the ViraSer Program women hold leadership positions, such as presidency, treasury and secretariat. In addition to the strong performance of cooperatives in municipalities, environmental education campaigns are promoted, reducing the disposal of recyclables in rivers, streams etc., support for municipalities in complying with their municipal solid waste management plans supports public policies for urban sustainable sanitation management. It is the purpose of the ViraSer Program to professionalize cooperatives, with a focus on health and safety at work, and integrate these ventures into the reverse logistics market, creating more jobs that generate positive environmental impacts. By encouraging the inclusion and professionalization of waste pickers, the ViraSer Program seeks to open space for people in situations of social vulnerability and unemployment so that they become economically active and can also meet their personal needs and desires. The support to municipalities and companies in the correct destination of urban, residential, commercial and industrial waste, avoids the proliferation of environmental liabilities in the cities. In addition, the inclusion and professionalization of waste pickers cooperatives integrate these enterprises and their enterprises into the reverse logistics market, creating more jobs with positive environmental impacts. The inclusion and professionalization of waste pickers cooperatives integrate these undertakings and their workers into the logic of cities. In environmental education campaigns with cooperatives, and in the 3 VDPs (Voluntary Delivery Points) of GAIA, the aim is to raise the awareness of the population regarding conscious and sustainable consumption through the reduction, reuse and recycling of product packaging. In addition, by integrating cooperatives into the reverse logistics market and supporting the public power in the selective collection, the aim is to ensure a sustainable production pattern, making solid waste return to the productive chain. According to indicators from IPESA (Institute for Socio-Environmental Projects and Research) and MMA (Ministry of Environment), the ViraSer Program has made the assessment of natural resources saved (trees, sand, minerals and material that returns to the productive chain, in addition to the volume of CO2 that is no longer emitted by the reduction of materials in landfills and in the processes of extraction of natural resources. The reduction of CO2 in the atmosphere is one of the actions needed to combat climate change and its impacts.

Key stakeholders and partnerships

The main stakeholders of the ViraSer Program are the GAIA Group, which is the organization proposing and managing the projects; cooperatives, which receive qualified investment and respond to these investments with their own development; the investing companies that need to report these investments in reverse logistics actions; local governments responsible for the selective collection and management of landfills; the intermunicipal consortia, which seek solutions to solid waste issues in several municipalities and the population in general, also responsible for the correct separation of the material and the accountability on the authorities.

Implementation of the Project/Activity

The program is implemented through different projects that share both the intervention methodology and the stages of diagnosis, execution and monitoring. In the diagnosis, the cooperatives are qualified in 31 indicators that reveal the organization's maturity regarding governance, productive efficiency, environmental education, commercialization and infrastructure. In this stage, information is also collected from the municipality, such as the situation of selective collection, socioeconomic data and main actors. Intervention in cooperatives operates on three fronts: 1) Governance and productive efficiency; 2. Environmental education and 3. Network marketing. Each front covers deliverables for the development of cooperatives, such as health and safety workshops at work, implementation of production and financial controls, etc. Finally, the monitoring raises financial, production, health and safety and environmental indicators, in addition to these indicators, monthly team meetings, technical reports and re-qualification of the cooperatives at the end of the projects.


Some cooperatives have responded significantly to program interventions. The Cooperative Alliance of Campinas / SP suffered an arson attack in 2017, and wrote, with support of ViraSer Program, a project to acquire a new shed, straightened their space and with technical assistance from ViraSer in 2018, has increased the number of locations in which collects (220%) and, consequently, the quantity of solid waste correctly destined (40%) and the income of its members (52%). Another cooperative out of the garbage dump and joint ViraSer program got a shed with two mats for material screening, 3 presses and went from 107 tons screened on average in 2017 to 115 tons on average in 2018, and in the last year, have saved the equivalent of 11,800 trees, 2,100 liters of oil, 500 tons of sand and 650 tons of ore with the correct disposal of solid waste. Another cooperative that brings good results is the RECISP, a network with five cooperatives formed in 2017 that, in January 2019 sold 191 tons of paper and plastic, which are no longer intended for rivers, landfills and city streets. The program started in 2 cities in 2015, with 6 cooperatives, R$ 2 million marketed by these organizations and 3,878 tons of recyclable materials. In 2018, 11 cities, 17 cooperatives, R$ 4,973 million in marketing and 8,927 tons of recyclable material were correctly allocated, generating employment, income, reducing poverty, environmental impact and improving sanitation in the cities served.

Enabling factors and constraints

The ViraSer Program has expanded its number of investors in recent years, with more resources to invest in equipment, environmental education strategies and interventions for the development of cooperatives. Today it has 6 industries supporting the Program and cooperatives. In addition, the articulation of the ViraSer Program with intermunicipal consortia helped in the contact with local governments to implement solid waste solutions. Today there are 4 partner consortia in the state of São Paulo, and it is a strategy of the Program to expand these partnerships throughout Brazil. The contact, orientation and terms of commitment with the municipalities were also aspects that favored the ViraSer to gain scale and recognition, since they opened space for the Program to guide municipalities in the correct management of the selective collection and support to the cooperatives. Some cooperatives with which the Program worked were resistant to interventions because of internal cultures that impeded their development; in these cases, we support some actors within cooperatives and environmental education actions in their cities. Finally, the involvement of the population was essential for this expansion of the Program, with the creation of selective collection committees in the cities, campaigns in schools, training of public officials, etc.\\\\r\\\\nOne innovation fruit of the program's learning is the Social Franchise, created in late 2018 and in the final stage of prototyping and structuring. This model has the purpose of implementing recycling centers in smaller municipalities, without cooperatives, with social inclusion of people living in vulnerability. Two pilots already show the main points to improve and have been bringing important learning for a constant improvement of the ViraSer Program.

Sustainability and replicability

The ViraSer Program works with the triple bottom line (social, economical and environmental) of sustainability in the following aspects: Social, with the inclusion of unemployed or vulnerable people in cooperatives, organizations with democratic models where these people have space to interact with co-workers and conquer personal and professional aspirations. Economic: the inclusion of these people in the cooperatives generates more jobs and income; cooperatives that every year manage to increase their revenues through the commercialization of solid waste in cooperatives network and to recycling industries with a consequent increase in the income distributed to their members. Environmental in the sense of these cooperatives commercializing solid waste and return these materials to the productive chain; this reduces the use of raw materials removed from nature and reduces the environmental impact of landfills and the incidence of pollution in rivers, cities, oceans, etc.\\\\r\\\\nThe relationship between benefit and cost is a challenge demanded by the Program's investors and has been treated with care so that the interventions in the cooperatives are oriented and have maximum efficiency. The strategic objective is for the ViraSer Program to deliver what the industry needs for an adequate investment, with socioeconomic inclusion and positive environmental impacts. As a plan to extend the practice to new contexts is the version of the ViraSer Program as a Social Franchise. This model seeks to structure recycling centers in municipalities of less than 80,000 inhabitants that do not have an organized cooperative. With clear definition of roles among investors, proponent organization, public authority and environmental agents of the franchise, this is a solution to generate income for people in vulnerability (focusing on women) and reduce the pollution and extraction of raw materials from nature with local recycling warehouses.


The ViraSer Program has broad coverage among the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 agenda when seeking environmental and political solutions, with socioeconomic inclusion of people in vulnerability and strengthening organizations led or that have mostly women working. The systematization of the intervention methodology in cooperatives has given the Program greater efficiency, with clarity of actions to be taken for the development of these organizations, strategies directed to environmental education campaigns, improvement of the selective collection and increase in the sales of cooperatives with network commercialization. With constant monitoring of the actions, as well as constant revisions of the projects for continuous improvement, the interventions have been more efficient over the years and, consequently, the number of cities, cooperatives, tons of material correctly destined and revenues of the cooperatives. Another factor that strengthens the ViraSer Program is the multidisciplinary team, with experience in complex projects. Administrators, pedagogues, engineers, psychologists, economists, sociologists and other professionals bring their academic knowledge and experiences in similar projects to strengthen the actions, methodology and strategy of the ViraSer Program. Finally, the greatest recognition that the Program achieved in these years was the trust of the actors involved. With the increase in the number of investors and their loyalty, the increase in the cities involved in the Program and the cooperatives that already work and feed the ViraSer team with good returns, the purpose of acting in an integrated and strategic way, in addition to direct interventions, earns more importance. In 2018, 6 industries and 4 intermunicipal consortia were involved, 17 cooperatives were supported in 11 cities in São Paulo and Minas Gerais, totaling 388 workers involved, 8,927 tons of recycled materials and billing of R$ 4,973 million for these cooperatives. The monitored environmental indicators, according to IPESA methodology, show that in 2018 the cooperatives supported by the ViraSer Program saved 8,905 trees, 1,294 liters of oil, 285 tons of sand and 311 tons of ore, which were not withdrawn from nature with the return of solid waste to the productive chain. With the strategy of Social Franchise and continuity of the ViraSer Program working with cooperatives, the objective is to meet with more commitment and territorial coverage the Sustainable Development Goals.

Other sources of information


Goal 1
Goal 5
Goal 6
Goal 8
Goal 9
Goal 10
Goal 11
Goal 12
Goal 13
Goal 15
Financing (in USD)
159,717 USD
Basic information
Start: 16 July, 2015
Completion: 31 December, 2020
Ongoing? no
Latin America and the Caribbean
Geographical Coverage
The program has territorial and local coverage, operating in the states of São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Pará, Pernambuco and Paraíba, in Brazil
GAIA Social
Type: Civil society organization
Contact information
Yuri Ongaro, Consutant, yuri.ongaro@gaiasocial.org.br, +55 019 992 704 223

United Nations