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Innovation From Within

January 17, 2012
tags:#Ashoka, #Ciudad Saludable, #Peru, #Social Innovation, #Waste Management
Long-term analysis of development aid impact shows that the most sustainable way of support is through enabling developing areas to help themselves.*

In our search for innovative waste ideas we often come across impressive low-tech solutions developed in wealthy economies that are initiators for sustainable development aid in low-income countries (for starters we recommend Stanford's Center for Extreme Affordability). And once in a while, we observe cases that (from our point-of-view) are even more impressive. Usually, those ideas are the ones that were self-initiated, often with no resources or capital at all. For instance, Ciudad Saludable (=Healthy City), a social business from Peru founded and ran by peruvian Ashoka-fellow Albina Ruiz, who started with an idea and the courage to act upon it.

Solid waste management is a serious problem in Peru. Since the day Ciudad Saludable started its work, some 1.000 tons of garbage were being generated daily in Cono Norte, one of Lima’s largest slums. Only half of it got collected by official municipal workers. Remainders were strewn along public roads and dumped into rivers, contaminating drinking sources. The problem, people neither wanted to or couldn’t afford to pay for public waste collection nor were they aware of its importance on health issues. Albina Ruiz turned these problems into an profitable opportunity. By working in partnership with municipalities (selling recyclable waste), she created over 1.500 waste collector jobs for people living in the slums. Their work in return steadily improved health and living conditions for more than 6 million people living in the area. Today, Ciudad Saludable provides highly efficient »low-tech trash collection and processing« as well as waste management services that are more sustainable and less expensive than those provided by municipal governments. The project encourages people to pay a modest fee by using creative and educating marketing incentives that emphasize the health benefits of waste collection. Speaking of output & impact, more than 6 million people's living conditions have been improved, thousands of jobs were generated and the general level of education and awareness regarding the reasonable handling of waste raised remarkably. While in upscale suburbs, where the city government collects the trash, waste collection payment rates are below 40%, the rates in Ciudad Saludable’s districts are above 80% now.

*Financial development aid is a sensitive issue, because it often implies the notion that the only development a country can achieve is through economic growth. Unfortunately economic growth does not always go along with an increase in quality of life and wellbeing of society. We at Global Waste Ideas (GWI) try to focus on long-term output & impact, rather than merely on short-term input & scale.