Phase 3A_Reference I: ECCO-COMUNITIES


In countries such as Bolivia, where low salaries and high unemployment mean that more and more families have to find a way to survive, recycling offers the potential of an economic olive branch. However, a project run by Swisscontact has gone some way to killing two birds with one stone by enabling ‘Eco-Communities’ to earn a living while implementing well structured waste collection and recycling systems.


The purpose of the project is to establish and strengthen systems for solid waste collection, treatment, recycling and environmental services through a systemic intervention in urban areas of Bolivia, especially in neighbourhoods.

The existing economic potential of solid waste shall be taken advantage of, alleviating poverty on an individual level by creating new jobs, improving working conditions, contributing to regular and stable incomes which are above the minimum salary for people working in the waste collection sector and adding value by implementing adequate treatment processes for recyclable materials. Additionally, the project also contributes to higher quality of life at the community level by helping to create a cleaner and healthier environment.



La paz:is Bolivia‘s third most-populous city. La Paz Metropolitan area, formed by the cities of La Paz, El Alto, and Viacha, make the most populous urban area of Bolivia. The city has an urban and rural population of 2,706,351 inhabitants according to Census 2012. . La Paz has a per-capita solid waste production of 0.58 kg / capita / day. The physical composition of solid waste is 47.3% of organic material, 32% co inorganic material (15.2% plastic, 12.8% of paper and paperboard, 2.6% glass, 1.4% metals) and 20.9 % other material.

Cochabamba:is a city in central Bolivia. It is the capital of the Cochabamba Department and is the fourth largest city in Bolivia with an urban approximate population of 630,587 (2012) and a metropolitan population of more than 1,000,000 people.

With a waste generation rate of 0.60 kg/capita/day, the town of Cochabamba, generates a total of about 500 tons of domestic waste per day, of which approximately 61.2% are organic, recyclable 17.9% (8.3% plastic, 6.2∞ paper and cardboard, 3.4% glass) and the remaining 20.9% is distributed in pathogens, barren-gums and others.

Santa Cruz:  is the capital of the Santa Cruz department in eastern Bolivia. Situated on the Pirai River in eastern Bolivia, the city of Santa Cruz and its metropolitan area are home to over 70% of the population of the departmentand it is one of the fastest growing cities in the world.

The per-capita production of waste in Santa Cruz is 0.57 kg / capita / day. In large part, these are made ​​up of organic material equivalent to 53.2%, 21% of in-organic (9.4% of plastic, 7% paper and cardboard, glass 4.1% and 0.6% metal) material and 25.7% of other materials.

Patosi: is a city and the capital of the department of Potosí in Bolivia. It is one of the highest cities in the world by elevation at a nominal 4,090 metres

Tarija:is a city in southern Bolivia. Founded in 1574, Tarija is both the capital and largest city within the Tarija Department.

The per-capita production of solid waste is 0.52 kg / day / person with a physical composition of 61% of organic material, 16% of inorganic material (6% plastic, paper and paperboard 6%, 2% metathem, 2% glass) and 23% other materials.



The target groups of the project are low educated poor people, mostly women with their children, who are working in the informal sector collecting recyclable materials, ‘waste pickers’, or employees of small collection centres as well as small businesses operating environmental services in the recycling, energy efficiency, reforestation, water or clean air sectors.


Bolivia generates approximately 4’000 tons of solid waste per day, 87% of which in urban areas. This daily amount of rubbish is one of the major problems in the growing urban centres. It creates a lot of hygienic and environmental hazards for the lack of efficient collection systems, adequate treatment and final disposal, which are big challenges for the local municipalities.

– The existing landfills have already reached their capacity limitsand suitable locations for new landfills are hardly to be found in the urban surroundings.

-I n fact, less than half of this huge amount of solid waste should enter into landfills. About 60% of the solid waste is organic material, which creates – due to the anaerobic conditions in landfills – methane (CH4), a strong greenhouse gas with a high global warming potential. The organic fraction could be better used to produce compost or energy through biogas.

– Another 20% of the solid waste consists of recyclable materials like plastics, paper or carton, glass and metals. These materials could easily be separated from the waste mix and sold directly to local collection centres and national or regional recycling industry.

– Another 10% is toxic and therefore hazardous. With adequate handling and separation, most parts of this dangerous waste could be recycled and sold without negative impacts to health or environment.

The economic potential of solid waste is enormous, especially in countries like Bolivia, where more and more families have to find a way to survive because of low salaries and high level of unemployment. Even though the prices for raw materials dropped heavily as a consequence of the global economic crisis, an informal, barely organised sector of waste pickers is establishing itself in the cities.

– People, who search the waste, collecting all kind of materials to sell, earn around $1 for every ten hours worked. This type of work in unhealthy and families live in extreme poverty and social exclusion – without any access to the markets.

2.4         AGENTS


The project was formed by a Chief Project Delegate in the Swisscontact headquarters in Switzerland. There are three local advisers who work in Swisscontact in La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz.


  • Public

Local, regional / provincial and national levels were important partners of the project because of its role as an authority responsible for education, health, and environmental protection. Municipalities play the role of supervisors and operators of solid waste collection due to their interest in reducing the amount of waste going to landfills and extending their life span. In addition, the public sector is the main factor to provide, support, and generate an integral development, as well as to establish the job statistics and to improve the environment. At the same time they are responsible for creating environmental politics through laws and regulations.

  • Private

The private sector is another important partner, which provides “green Jobs” and environmental services in the form of small companies specializing in the recycling process. Professionals in the production of compost, owners, and employers of the collection centres are all linked to the Eco-communities and institutions which specialize in the promotion of environmental awareness. (FUNDARE, Brigada verde)

  • Academic

Public and private universities, technical institutions, and schools supported the process of awareness and researched proper environmental practices.

  • Civic

The local sectors provide the main point for the implementation of awareness campaigns and the promotion of new collection systems. They are also promoters of new jobs and are strategic allies that spread the experience to other communities.



The main problem of the municipal Government is the management and final disposal of the solid waste, which has been increasing at a constant rate in urban centres. Its incorrect management generates hygiene and health problems among citizens and damages the environment. In addition, it has a really high cost to treat, maintain, and look for new places to dispose of the solid waste.

Generally, landfills have 10 to 15 years of life, depending on the size of the ground. However, this time usually decreases due to the misuse and improper disposal of organic and recyclable waste.

Only 23% of waste is considered unuseful. 4% is dangerous waste generated by hospitals and other medical institutions. And the rest is formed in the following way:

–        22% of the solid waste can be recycled as plastic (10%), paper and cardboard (6.5%), glass (3%), and various kinds of metal (2.5%) which can be easily separated and sold to local gatherers.

–        55% are organic waste that produces a lot of methane (CH4), a potent greenhouse gas (GHG) with a high global warming potential. With a source separation and appropriate management, most of the solid waste can be recycled and sold without negatively impacting people’s health and the environment. The economic profit of waste is huge, especially in countries such as Bolivia where many of the families have to find the way to survive with a low salary and a high unemployment rate, and strengthening the informal and weak sector. Even the economic potential of recycling has been recognised by businessmen and people with limited resources alike. Its recovery is still a long way ahead so it is still not generating a large income and environmental benefits.


In this situation, since 2001 Swisscontact is focus on improving the integral Management of waste through their Project Media Ambiente Latinoamérica (LAMA), which had a deal to set up a integral Management of hospital waste and spread the collection of plastic waste (PET) through the creation of FUNDARE ( Fundacion para el reciclaje) . Taking into account the experiences taken from LAMA’s Project and based on the demand of the solid waste sector, the ministry of Environment and water (MMAyA) subscribed an agreement with Swisscontact to expand and develop the integrated solid waste Management.

The strategies of the Project were focused on promoting a change in the Management system of solid waste on the OTB’s (organizaciones territoriales de base) level, generating new jobs in different environmental areas, and minimizing health and environmental risks, as well as improving the poor conditions of some marginal sectors.

In July 2007, Cochabamba undertook an activity in two OTB’s: the Campana-periodista and Amanecer, where neighbours implemented specific activities that were evaluated during the 2008 management. Based on this initial experience, 15 OTB’s from District 3 joined the process and were the basis in consolidating the methodology and build experience based on the capacity, willingness, and solidarity that a citizen has in order to promote community development.

These aspects started a Project between 2009 and 2012 in Santa Cruz, La Paz, El Alto, and Cochabamba called “Eco-communities (Ecovecindarios)- Working in community”.


All municipalities where the project was developed started with an Initial Environmental Assessment, based on a methodology developed by the project.

A DAI (Diagnóstico Ambiental Inicial) is a simple and fast tool used to identify environmental difficulties in order to prioritize the actions of an Environmental plan. This tool must work with neighbours due to:

–        The neighbour is the main actor of Eco communities Project

–        The neighbour is the one who knows their place of residence the best

–        To participate in the diagnostic allows the neighbour to look into his ambiance through an environmental perspective.

–        Promote the neighbour for being an active protagonist in improving the life quality in the OTB

This diagnostic has three important parts:

  1. General form
  2. Photographic memory
  3. Solid waste form, this one is looking for an economic potentiality of waste recycling.

The first step to execute a DAI will be to create a work Group with the directive of OTB and neighbours who want to participate. It is important to be within the limits of the OTB to avoid confusing information. On the way through the area, integrators have to fill out forms and make a photographic register. Once the way is over and all the forms are filled out, the work Group has to meet and compare their results.

Once the activity is done, the OTB can elaborate an environmental action line and develop a chronogram to achieve the objectives that were decided on based on the priorities of the OTB

In the specific case of solid waste management, the DAI released the approximate amounts of waste per capita, and the potential of recycling in the OTB. Based on this studio, the Collecting System of recyclable material was done.

The environmental diagnostics of more than 100 Eco communities had the following problems as a result:


To start the Project, Swisscontact opened some public calls through the print media and environmental fairs in order to involve people who are interested in working in waste management.

Some OTBs were interested and municipalities performed an environmental diagnostic. After that and based on the results, Swisscontact signed a deal with the neighbourhood/municipality selected.

– 2009: In the first year, the main concern was the collection system for each kind of waste and the strengthening of the involved institutions, public and private.

– 2010: In the second year, apart from the collection system, the environmental awareness and the promotion of the green Jobs were strongly developed.

– 2011: Balance in the development of the strategies.

– 2012: In the fourth year, the main concern was the environmental awareness and the promotion of the green Jobs, both of which were strongly developed.


The third phase of the Project (2013-2016) will be based on solutions for integral waste Management on an urban community level. At the same time, the recycling sector will be promoted. In addition, the Project will focus on water treatment by developing new and simple, but effective Technologies.

On other hand, the Project will be focused on water issues, especially the proper treatment of sewage in rural communities and saving water in the bigger municipalities.

As in the previous phase, a strength of the public and private institutions will be developed in order to improve their technical capabilities and to improve the legal frame necessary in environmental issues.

Based on what was previously said, the lines of action will be:

1. Expanding solutions for recycling systems at the level of communities, municipalities, as well as nationally.

2. Promoting green jobs in different environmental aspects.

3. Implementation of appropriate wastewater treatment and the efficient use of water.

4. Institutional Strengthening of strategic partners in the public and private sector.

The small yet efficient Project team in Switzerland will manage the technical advice and the transfer of knowledge. The Project will look for cooperation among local and International universities in order to develop proper Solutions for the public and private sectors in Bolivia.



The objective of this first action line was to strengthen the public awareness of good practices, especially pertaining to waste Management, as well as water and energetic efficiency… At the same time it is really important to motivate citizen participation because the neighbours are the protagonists in the process of improving their environmental context.

This awareness process has been developed in many steps and ways. In big municipalities with more than 50.000 citizens, a first contact with the OTB’s was done in order to show them the specific concept of waste management and catch their interest in the project. After, the DAI were done in the neighbour where environmental aspects were detected in the form of illegal landfills and streets littered with rubbish.

At the same time, different agents were related to recycling as a part of the waste Management similar to the institutions. Once the Studio (DAI) was done, results were shared with each OTB. In a meeting, neighbours presented Solutions for each particular problem in the OTB. In this way, neighbours also realised problems in their own community organisation.

As a result of particular problems, some OTBs defined themselves as a manager, and workers were to collect rubbish and to treat recyclable waste. In other cases, it took more time due to some neighbourhoods not having enough workers in the area.


The second level is the formation of local collection systems for different kinds of recyclable materials, implemented in cooperation with the Eco-Communities. Based on a small standardised environmental diagnostic, the collection systems are established by involving waste pickers and local collection centres.

A new neighbourhood collection as well as collecting points were designed based on the initial environmental diagnostics. Workers collect all the recyclable material according to a pre-programmed route and bring it to the collecting points where rubbish is classified properly. The collecting centre values the materials and directly pays the Eco-communities.

This monthly income is used to pay the collectors, with the rest used for other environmental services or activities according to the OTBs’ necessities. In the first phase, the Eco-communities collected only inorganic recyclable waste, because it was the only kind of waste that they could sell. In the second phase, organic wastes were also collected and were used in fertilizer and for energy.

The objective of this experience is to make the scale bigger in otder to create a municipality collecting system.


The third action line took into account two main aspects: on the one hand, the increase of green-specialized jobs related to energy efficiency, water, air, etc. On the other hand, the creation of new centres to treat different kinds of waste and to produce compost through organic waste in order to generate energy and to treat electronic garbage.

In order to create new jobs, people with technical abilities such as electricians, gardeners, and plumbers, or people with small companies that work with recycled resources were hired.

The objective of the Project had the following three priorities: to develop products, to promote and market these products, and the idea that these products in a prototype scale can be competitive in trade so that they can create employment.


The fourth and last action line looked to strengthen the public and private institutional partners by creating technical advice and offices where necessary.

Considering the contribution that this strategic ally can make, the relationship with many public and private universities was strengthened. These institutions were important agents in diversifying project research and supported the awareness of the citizens.

The Project supported the Autonomic Government, the national Government, and especially the Environmental Ministry in the improvement of the current legal framework. The project promoted collaboration in the creation of new regulations and specific laws for recycling.


– Even the awareness was Scheduled to be done door-by-door and on the weekends in order to really catch the attention of the neighbours and to transmit the message in the best possible way as not all the neighbours were receptive. In this way a complementary strategy is more powerful and thus should be developed.

– To implement a collection system, it is necessary to identify high-density population areas, as well as commercial places, informational points, or any other places where to include information and publicity of the project.

– It is important to raise awareness of all the different generating agents (houses, schools, supermarkets…) because separating the waste from the origin should be done by everyone.

– All the printed materials to raise awareness among the neighbours work better if they have more pictures than text, because the message is easier to understand and is more direct. In addition, it is important to select the merchandising products like notebooks, rulers, and calendars in order to avoid them becoming rubbish.

– It is necessary to train the people responsible for transmitting the awareness message, because they are the ones who will send important information and motivate the citizens.

-In the awareness process, it is decisive to inform the people about the importance of paying a tax to make the service sustainable; there is even a part that comes from the GAM as a percentage that has to be covered by the citizens.

– Before starting a collection process in a neighbourhood, it is important to take into account topography, accessibility, climate factors, density population, and main economic activities in order to have a proper service.

– To maintain efficient collection system is necessary in order to train collectors about routes, frequency, and industrial security.

– It is necessary to find a proper storage location to keep the useful materials since they can be sold when the price goes up.

– All the methods of transportation that collect rubbish must have information regarding how they keep the waste separated, helping the people who recycle.

– It is crucial to raise awareness among the citizens and government regarding the damage and negative consequences of incorrect waste Management as well as the importance of citizen participation.

– The awareness process has to include information about the negative consequences of bad waste Management as well as supporting a separate system to avoid greenhouse gas.

– It is both useful and vital to design a database, which will generate and collect waste information in order to measure the collection points.



– In the first phase of the Project, a collection system was incorporated into 400 neighbourhoods. Even though some of them had abandoned the Project due to external reasons, at the end of the phase 397 Eco communities, 335 OTB, and 46 Eco-markets are still working.

– Switching the scale of the Project from the neighbourhoods to municipalities allowed the collection system to be more efficient because public and private companies substituted workers. However, 7 collection association were created in 2011.

– Organic garbage is a large part of the waste in Bolivia. Step-by-step, municipalities started to treat them, generating a high level of collection. There are 7 centres in big cities such as: Cochabamba, La Plaz, and El Alto, and there are 2 electronic collection points in La Paz and Cochabamba.

– Thanks to the treatment and collection of organic material, 18.259 T of greenhouse gas was reduced.


– 475.000 households were aware about waste Management.

– Citizen participation increased 23 % at the end of the first phase. Even though it wasn’t possible to arrive to the objective of 40 %, the data was really positive and Swisscontact expects to get better results in the second phase.

– Even though not all the planned collection points were set up, all of those set up are auto-managed.


– Income generated by selling recycled materials increased due to the increase in the price of PET and the efficient collection. all thanks to municipal politics.

– In the first phase, 443 green jobs were created. 227 of them focused on proper and efficient collection. 163 focused on the production and offers of products and services. 35 focused on collection points, and 18 on organic treatment centres.

– Over four years, the four main cities involved in the project have invested 4.5 million USD in order to execute and develop different activities.


In conclusion, waste management is really complex. However, the intervention methodology of Eco-communities has allowed the creation of a general awareness regarding waste management among all the involved agents as well as the citizens, achieving social, political, economic, and environmental results.

In terms of social aspects, the project has not only created a public awareness but also a relationship among different agents such as neighbours, associations, workers, companies, municipalities, and national authorities. Moreover, it is important to know that through recycling, people who used to have an irregular and worthless job now have stable work in good conditions.

The advice and support of the government has allowed political strategies on a local and national level.

The private initiative has been the driving force for economic growth by creating new jobs through the valorisation of waste and the creation of events and platforms to share experiences.

From an ecological perspective, it was possible to get information regarding the environmental situation in neighbourhoods, districts and municipalities, which in turn allowed specifically defined activities to improve management and find solutions for specific garbage.


  1. The methodology of the Project can be applied in a general way in all the contexts following all the phases of steps. However, the first phase consists of analysing all the specific problems that a particular area has which then allows the development of specific solutions for that context.
  2. In this case, there is no hierarchy in the strategies because all of them are developed with the same level of importance in mind. Even the first step –awareness- is related to cultural issues. All the social, economic, and environmental concepts have the same importance. However, this first step was essential to make the rest of the strategies work.
  3. An excellent analysis of the context has paved the way to identify the controversies in the area and transform these problems into opportunities. Rather than just solve one of the problems, we will also improve the general conditions of the society and the city by creating new jobs and new infrastructures.
  4. Citizen participation has been indispensable in order to run the project. For this, an awareness campaign has been a necessary first step to start working.
  5. Waste management has been developed on different scales, ranging from neighborhoods to municipalities to create a proper system.
  6. All the projects have been supported by a legal framework that will keep the project operational in the future.
  7. The project has taken advantage of waste in all the possible ways.
  •          Management (collect, separate, transport, and dispose of…)
  •         Selling waste as a raw material
  •         Reusing waste to create new products
  •         Organizing activities and workshops
  1. Project managers have looked for strategic agents in order to get economic and conceptual support.






































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