Project Pucallpa - Ciudad Saludable's Recycling Enterprise in Pucallpa, Peru


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Ciudad Saludable (Healthy City) [1] is a Peruvian non-profit organization that works with grassroots organizations, public entities and private enterprises in Peru and other Latin American countries to improve the quality of life of poor individuals and create cleaner cities through solid waste management (Ciudad Saludable, 2009). Ciudad Soludable is associated with the social enterprise Peru Waste Innovation. The organization was founded in 2001 by Albina Ruiz, an industrial engineer with a Masters in Ecological and Environmental Management from Universidad Ricardo Palma and a Phd in Chemistry from Universidad Ramon Llull in Barcelona, Spain. Albina is an Ashoka Fellow, a Skoll Entrepreneur (See Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship) and a Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship Fellow. Ciudad Soludable has received numerous other awards including the 2007 Globe Energy Award and the 2007 Global Development Network Award for the ‘Most Innovative Development Project’ (Flores, 2008a). Ciudad Soludable overseas garbage collection and recycling programmes in 40 cities in Peru and has created permanent employment for more than 230 people (Flores, 2008b).


Background on the Problem

Throughout the developing world rural to urban migration combined with population growth has led to the expansion of informal settlements on the outskirts of many cities. Due to their informal nature, these communities typically lack solid waste management removal services/systems. As a result, waste is often burned or left to accumulate, further exasperating poverty and posing a threat to human health. Unfortunately, Peru is no exception to this trend. However, in most communities there are individuals who collect some of the reusable / recyclable waste (that they find in landfills, in the trash and/or on the streets) and sell it to intermediaries to earn income and support their families. Although a valuable source of income and a much needed service, this type of work can be unhealthy and unsafe. Consequently, the Peruvian government is now working with NGO’s such as Ciudad Soludable to try to address some of these issues by formalizing the informal recycling sector. In particular, Ciudad Saludable works directly with recyclers to help them organize themselves into professional microenterprises.

Project Pucallpa

Ciudad Saludable’s Pucallpa project aims to improve the environmental health of 10,000 families living in Pucallpa and the livelihoods of 80 families of recyclers through the implementation of a selective solid waste recycling program that incorporates a training component to develop solid waste management skills within local governments and other relevant institutions/organizations (Ciudad Saludable, 2009; JUCCCE Energy Blueprint, 2009). In Pucallpa, Ciudad Soludable’s activities have helped create a revolving credit fund (with the support of Scotiabank) so that the recyclers could acquire the equipment, protective clothing and tools they needed to safely do the job. Further, a central collection centre was built with one plastic grinder, one can and tin press and one moto-furgon for the recyclers to gather the recyclable waste. Other activities included the development of a system for segregating waste at the source and the provision of environmental training for the recyclers / other important groups. As a result of these and other activities, in 2008 the City of Pucallpa recovered more than 45 tons of recyclable solid waste (Ciudad Saludable, 2009; JUCCCE Energy Blueprint, 2009). The recyclers are organized into four organizations under a larger cooperative called the Asociacion de Recicladores Pucallpa Tierra Colorada. In 2006, the recyclers were making 460 soles/month on contract with the municipal government (Ciudad Soludable, 2006 as cited in Letizia & Whitty, 2010). Although this is not a large sum of money, Letizia & Whitty (2010) found that it was enough for the recyclers to get by and in some cases save a little.

Prior to Ciudad Soludable’s involvement in Pucallpa all waste was disposed of in the cities dump, which is located along a tributary of the Ucayali River near many informal human settlements (Letizia & Whitty, 2010). This situation had negative impacts on human health as well as the environment. For example, often waste would end up in the water and then be carried downstream to the Ucayali River, where it would contaminate the water used by indigenous communities to meet their daily needs. The contaminated ground and/or river water became a vector of various communicable diseases (COSEPRE 2000 as cited in Letizia & Whitty, 2010). Further, informal recyclers were working at the dumpsite without the proper equipment or training to do the job safely, posing further concerns (Note: Recently, Pucallpa established a new dump site).


Pucallpa's New Garbage Dump

Benefits of Project Pucallpa’s Work

In their study on resource recovery in Pucallpa, Letizia & Whitty (2010) conclude that formalization of the recycling industry in Pucallpa has led to higher job satisfaction, improved social acceptance and lower levels of stress amongst the recyclers. As a result of Ciudad Saludable’s activities the recyclers now fulfill an important role in the community which in turn has led to greater confidence and acceptance (Flores, 2008b; Letizia & Whitty, 2010). Letizia & Whitty (2010) also found that formalization had the following additional benefits:

  • Creation of a safer working environment
  • Creation of fixed wages improving the recyclers sense of financial security
  • Improved worker capacity to advocate for the environment and for their work both within the community and within municipal government

Overall, Project Pucallpa has helped create employment and reduce poverty while also addressing important environmental challenges. Consequently, increasingly more cities in Peru and surrounding counties have started or are planning on starting similar initiatives.

Key Learnings from Project Pucallpa

According to Ciudad Saludable (2009), key learning’s from the project include the following:

  • A strong project requires the involvement of a range of stakeholders including educational institutions, health institutions, private enterprises, local government, environmental institutions and civil society
  • Public officials from the local government should be trained and empowered so that they assume some responsibility for project goals.
  • It is important to anticipate barriers and delays in municipal administration and develop strategies to help overcome/ deal with them.
  • The local project team should have knowledge of environmental management and municipal administration. If this is not the case they should be trained on these topics so that they are more committed to the projects goals.

Letizia & Whitty (2010) also offer four recommendations from their study of Project Pucallpa for similar holistic development projects:

  • It is important to educate participants and beneficiaries on the risks of improper waste disposal and what they can do to minimize these risks. In order to accomplish this educational campaigns are crucial
  • Waste management systems should be inclusive of women and other marginalized populations
  • Public policies should support the integration of recyclers into the waste management system since it can be a cost effective solution to both the environmental and social risks associated with improper waste management
  • In order to be sustainable, social and environmental concerns should be given equal importance in development planning


As is the case with most businesses, the recycling industry also has its challenges. In particular, recycling microenterprises in Pucallpa face the following challenges:

  • The recycling industry is becoming increasingly competitive as more and more individuals/organizations recognize the economic value of plastic waste. Increasingly, garbage men, individual recyclers, families and other recyling firms are collecting and selling recyclable products themselves.
  • The profit margin on recycled goods can be low once the costs associated with collection, sorting, processing and transportation are taken into consideration. Furthermore, the market value of plastics fluctuates with season.
  • It can be difficult to get people to properly seperate their waste at the source. As a result, the recyclers end up having to do more of the sorting which can be costly in terms of time.


Video on Ciudad Saludables project in Pucallpa - [2]

Ciudad Saludable Website - [3]

Ciudad Saludable on PBS - [4]


Ciudad Soludable. (2009). Retrieved from

Ciudad Saludable. (2006). Implementation of Microenterprises to Manage Solid Waste, with the Social Integration of Informal Recyclers and the Participation of Local Citizens. Pucallpa, Peru: Ciudad Saludable.

Letizia, K. & Whitty, M. (2010). Resource Recovery in Pucallpa, Peru: How Recycling Microenterprises engage citizens, manage waste and promote sustainable human development. Retrieved from

Flores, J. (2008a). Peru’s innovative wast project wins world’s largest aid research prize. Retrieved from

Flores, J. (2008b). Deutsche Welle TV reports on progress of Ciudad Saludable’s project in Pucallpa. Retrieved from

JUCCCE Energy Blueprint. (2009). Retrieved from