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Valoristes place 4th in Quebec iDDées contest for sustainable development

Posted on: July 10th, 2013 by

On June 12, the Quebec Action Fund for Sustainable Development (FAQDD) and the selection committee of its iDDées contest selected seven out of 182 sustainable development proposals. The FAQDD will provide practical support to these seven projects that represent emerging ideas in sustainable development.

“Ultimately, we hope that the deployment of these iDDées in structured projects, supported by the best partners, allows us to realize the full potential of these initiatives behavioral changes in addition to respond to various issues relevant to society Quebec” says FAQDD executive director, Ms. Véronique Jampierre.

Congratulations to Coopérative de solidarité les Valoristes for winning 4th prize. FAQDD and the iDDées contest will support the Valoristes in accomplishing their vision of establishing a bottle depot cooperative in Montreal. The solidarity cooperative in Montreal aims to “protect and promote the role of ‘valoristes’, a person who can easily integrate the conventional job market and contribute to the collection of documented and reusable materials as compensation and return returnable containers”.

To learn more about other contest winners such as Nature Quebec, a project facilitating business opportunities for timber industry waste materials, visit:

Update: Les Valoristes awarded 2013 scholarship

Posted on: June 8th, 2013 by

Les Valoristes, a newly established recycling cooperative in Montreal, Quebec, has been awarded a social entrepreneurship scholarship by the Institut du Nouveau Monde and J.Armand Bombardier Foundation in their Contest To Go project.

Within the scholarship the objectives of the cooperative are many: 

  • Continue to “raise awareness of the reality of valoristes and the valuable work they do every day”
  • To create a central repository dedicated to facilitating and improving current working conditions and to provide a space where valoristes can assert their interests.
  • Provide payment for valoristes at the right price and to develop an activity of micro-credit to invest in equipment work
  • “Reduce social exclusion of people in marginal situations that are often valoristes”
  • Decrease urban pollution

Les Valoristes, representing the first recycling cooperative project in Quebec, has both a social and environmental mission: Helping to contribute to the reduction of urban poverty and acting to decrease environmental pollution by promoting recycling and waste reduction.

To learn more about this project  you can find them at or contact them @: and

To learn more about the other scholarship awards and social entrepreneurship programs by Institut du Nouveau Monde visit:

UWC and Les Valoristes

Posted on: June 6th, 2013 by

Ken Lyotier, founder of Vancouver’s non-profit “United We Can” Bottle Depot visited Montreal, Quebec in November as a special guest at the ‘Pro-Consigne’ sponsored conference ( Lyotier (below) was invited to participate and build support for the newly established binners coop called ‘Les Valoristes’. The event, which brought together activists, lobbyists from the beverage and supermarket industry, government and academics, included a series of presentations and a panel on the social and economic implications, benefits and challenges of expanding the beverage container program in the province. 

Ken Lyotier (pictured here in Montreal) started UWC in the early 90’s while surviving on binning in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia.

The charitable organization United We Can (UWC) started in the 90’s, when few bottles were included in BC’s deposit system, limiting income for binners through bottle collection and return. Ken Lyotier realized that by expanding the refund-deposit system large amounts of plastic and glass could be saved from the landfill, as well as increase income opportunities for Vancouver binners. In an attempt to bring attention to the deposit issue, Lyotier asked fellow binners to drop their containers in Victory Square, located in the Downtown Eastside 

“Binners were lining up all around the park and up Hastings Street, Lyotier recalled, and built a huge mountain of bottles”. Soon after this event, the B.C. government agreed to expand the refund-deposit system in the amount refunded and the type of beverage containers included. Lyotier then created UWC as a social enterprise bottle depot in 1995. UWC operates by offering cash in exchange to anyone bringing containers that are a part of the extended scheme. UWC is a financially independent social enterprise operated by and for informal recyclers.

Since the creation of UWC 18 years ago “700 binners drop off about 55,000 recyclables to the bottle depot each day, and up to 120,000 on a busy summer day.” A “professional binner can make up to $20 dollars for a big collection [and] annually, UWC pays $2.7 million in deposits back to the community.”

Today, a similar co-op founded in Montreal, called Les Valoristes, is facing a familiar battle to that of UWC’s in the early 90’s. In Montreal, the former Liberal government had agreed to “increase the price of refundable containers from $0.05 to $0.10 in 2013”. The outcome of the provincial elections last September however, placed Parti Québéquois in power, who have since put the brakes on the proposed deposit increase for recyclables. The amount of the bottle refund in Montreal has stayed the same since its creation in 1984, without adjusting to inflation. Compared to the rest of Canada, Quebec is vastly behind in creating incentives for a return system.

For Les Valoristes, “fighting provincial laws and powerful food and drink retailers for an expansion of the deposit-refund system in Quebec”, is integral for Montreal’s binning community. The founder of the co-op, Marica Vazquz Tagliero argues “the refund system is a powerful tool not only against urban pollution, but also against poverty.”

Les Valoristes Coopérative de Solidarité

On the cold morning of -3 degrees 8,000 non-refundable beverage containers were collected in less than 2 hours.

In an act similar to UWC’s, Montreal local binners brought in about 8,000 containers in less than two hours during the “container-gathering event” last November 2012 (above). The compiled containers, “not valid for refund in Quebec but refundable in B.C.”, hoped to send a strong message to the Quebec Government regarding the expansion of the Province’s deposit system.

Les Valoristes Coopérative de Solidarité

Each valoristes received 10 cents for each container they brought. Funding for this was financed entirely from a donation by Ken Lyotier.

Despite operating in different cities, both Les Valoristes and UWC work towards a common goal of drawing public attention to the social benefits associated with improved deposit-refund systems. Les Valoristes view UWC as a model “of social involvement in addressing city waste management issues”, and are working hard in hopes of one day creating a UWC-style depot in Montreal. Tagliero “praises the success of [UWC] for maintaining an informal economy while helping those in need earn an income, clean the city and improve their quality of life”.

There is a strong emergence of binning in Canada, but the work of collecting recyclables is not limited to this country; it is a global phenomena. According to University of Victoria professor Jutta Gutberlet, who studies the binning business in Canada and in Brazil,  “UWC’s business plan could be applied in just about any urban area in the world”. In her view, urban waste issues can be solved with social and economic inclusion of this community.

Recognizing the important services of the binning community is vital to both environmental and social well-being. Governments, both within Canada and globally, need to recognize these communities and adopt adequate recycling policies and deposit systems. As said by Tagliero: “It is time for politicians to […] take action for a more efficient refund system that would benefit the collective well-being”.


*This article is based off the following news articles:

Vancouver bottle depot seen as a model in Montreal (January 7, 2013) by Anne-Laurence Godfrey from The Source (

La consigne des canettes restera à 5 ¢ pour le moment (December 21, 2012) from Radio-Canada (

*Photos taken by Alietti St-Pierre and provided by Marcia Vazquz Tagliero. 

The effects of handling solid waste on the wellbeing of informal and organized recyclers: A review of the literature. By Eric Binion and Jutta Gutberlet

Posted on: February 19th, 2013 by

“Is the drastically shortened lifespan—the injuries, accidents, deaths—a direct outcome of the informal occupation or is it a result of the variables of inhabiting a marginalized socio-economic living standard?”

Eric Binion and Jutta Gutberlet co-author an article titled “The Effects of Handling Solid Waste on the Wellbeing of Informal and Organized Recyclers: a Review of the Literature”. This article summarizes the literature on the subject of reported health risks —both observed and perceived— of informal recycling (44).

The title ‘informal recycler’ is “linguistically diverse”, identified colloquially in Brazil as catadores or carrinheiros, in Argentina as cartoneros or recuperadores urbanos, as binners in North America, or as zabaleen in Egypt (43). “Informal recycler” is used in Binion and Gutberlet’s review to generalize “all individuals involved in the informal solid waste recovery sector” (43).

“Studies with informal recyclers and health have been completed worldwide, particularly in Brazil Vietnam, the Philippines, Argentina, and South Asia” (44). The studies have accumulated evidence showing the serious risk that the informal recycling occupation poses to both the environment and human health. The literature review by Binion and Gutberlet is an “accumulation of existing studies, followed by a collection of the nascent work being developed by researchers particularly in the South” (44). 

The following six sub-themes are addressed: chemical hazards, infection, ergonomic and musculoskeletal damage, mechanical-trauma, emotional wellbeing and vulnerabilities, and environmental contamination. This report also addresses the benefits of operating within a recycling cooperative (45).

Chemical Hazards:

Informal recyclers often occupy landfills or city streets where they are exposed to toxic chemical substances and are placed in work related situations where they inhale “burning waste or vehicle and heavy machinery emissions” (45). “There have been numerous documented self-reported respiratory ailments, such as decreased lung function, lung infections, and eye irritation, as a result of diesel fuel exhaust and burning waste (45). Also, “the constant exposure to exhaust is thought to be correlated with a higher level of bronchitis reported by recyclers, as well as headaches and nausea” (45). High levels of lead found in the blood of recyclers working in landfills and within the breast milk of women neighboring landfills of recycler communities poses another threat to the health of workers and those in surrounding areas (45).

Unregulated “industrial, pharmaceutical, and hospital waste” are also harmful chemical hazards that are “catalyst[s] for infection” (45).

The Goiania accident in 1987 is an example of failed policy with regard to chemical waste mismanagement. A hospital in Goiania, Brazil “carelessly discarded” nuclear medicine equipment as waste. “Recyclers took this material home to be sorted and dismantled, allowing radiation to leak and infect themselves, their families, and their friends. The event led to four deaths and radioactive contamination of 249 individuals” (45).

“In addition to radioactive hospital waste, pharmaceutical rejects may be illegally disposed of in landfills or left in the streets to be picked or sorted through by children” (45).


Recyclers working without adequate protection are at risk of infection from pathological waste generated by the improper disposal of “medical waste, solid household waste, human waste, and decaying organic matter” (46).

“Mishandling solid waste, such as medical waste and syringes, is one of the higher perceived occupational threats for the informal recycler” (46).

“Infections may occur by direct contact with biological pathogens, such as hepatitis B or through exposure to biological contamination resulting in respiratory ailments, “a leading complaint perceived by informal recyclers” (46).

o   “In Metro Manila’s main dump site, 974 children were examined, 24% of which had chronic cough, 25% wheezing, and 19% a shortness of breath. At the same dump site 10 years earlier, out of 750 informal recyclers, 70% had upper-respiratory ailments, including tuberculosis, pneumonia, asthma, and bronchitis (46).

o   A similar study in Managua, Nicaragua, demonstrated that children who pick waste exhibited a decrease in lung function and wheezing due to a higher exposure in particulates” (46).

o   Kennedy et al discovered that nasal infections and acute chest symptoms experienced by individuals working in bottle return stores were associated with “endotoxins derived from decaying waste growing in bottles” (46).

Stomach infections are also common among informal recyclers as  “economic hardship occasionally pushes recyclers to consume recovered food leading to “intestinal diseases such as worms, flukes, and viruses” and “food poisoning [that] may cause diarrhea, parasitic infection, and nausea” (46).

The incidence of acute diarrhea was 10 times greater in informal recyclers than in the general population” and “in stool samples taken from children working in Manila, it was confirmed that 98% had parasites, either Trichuris trichiura, Ascaris lumbricoides, or both” (46).

Ergonometric and Musculoskeletal Damage

“Ergonometric injuries consist of musculoskeletal illness, the direct result of repeatedly moving and lifting heavy objects, such as carts and bags filled with solid waste” (46). Informal recyclers are prone to “sprains, fatigue, muscle pain” “lumbar disc prolapse, neck disorders, tendon disease, and increased pulmonary ventilation as a result of frequent “squatting, vibration, repetitive movements and awkward postures while sorting and collecting solid waste (46).

“Reports from a US study on formal sanitation workers revealed that arthritis was four times more common in sanitation workers than in general laborers , which coincides with self-assessed reports from informal recyclers in Brazil” (46).

Recycling cooperatives, “although not a means or end-product to alleviating all health issues”, do provide benefits that respond to the aforementioned reported health risks. For example, “working together in a cooperative can reduce over exhaustion and over working, which are factors in musculoskeletal damage, stress, anxiety, and depression” (49).

Mechanical Trauma

The threat of vehicular accidents, the dangers of working at night, a lack of safety equipment and medical opportunities is a justified problem in the informal recycling center around the world. Recyclers deal with mechanical accidents such as “cuts, blunt trauma, falls, lacerations, and traffic accidents” on a daily basis (47).

“17% of recyclers in Vietnam mentioned being involved in either a minor or major collision with garbage trucks” (47).

Recyclers also often prefer to work barehanded for “greater tactility”, but a lack of safety equipment leads to a “common occurrence of lacerations to the hands, arms, and legs (47).

The mechanical trauma’s that recyclers face in their line of work brings up another issue: medical care.

“Regardless of high-or low-income countries, the informal recyclers appear to wait too long before seeking medical help thus increasing the likelihood of infection” (47).

There are varying reasons for recyclers to postpone medical care. “Recyclers in Guatemala reported avoiding health clinics and hospitals when injured or sick for fear of discrimination” (48), and “only 32% of the recyclers in Columbia went to see the doctor when they were ill, citing lack of health coverage as the issue” (47). And in the situations where “informal recyclers may have access to health care, it may be impossible to receive the care, as at times, they are requested to take work off, which is not fiscally feasible when living on day to day pay” (47).

“In Portland, Oregon, medical records confirmed that the majority of recyclers arriving with lacerations had cuts in such poor states that medical officials were often unable to stitch them” (47).

“Undoubtedly, the issue of medical care can be deemed a social issue, a lack of knowledge of hazards, and an absence of medical opportunities” (47).

Cooperatives provide an option for easier access to health care (49). The recycling cooperative “El Movimiento de Trabajadores Excluidos“ in Buenos Aires, is a part of the Argentina’s workers union that has access to Obras Sociales, a social security network that allows extended health insurance” (49). Further, cooperative members are also provided durable uniforms with reflective strips, and are able to register with the city, thus accessing free gloves and vaccinations, such as tetanus” (49).

Emotional Wellbeing

“Social stigma and marginalization, coupled with the precariousness of the work and lack of financial security can create unnecessary stress” for informal recyclers and lead to a “higher self-assessed degree of vulnerability” (48).

“The public may perceive the informal recyclers in a variety of ways; some assist the recyclers by pre-sorting their materials from the garbage or by providing food, while others socially exclude and marginalize them” (48).

Informal recyclers have self-assessed stress related symptoms that include “ulcers, high blood pressure, and stomach problems” (48). Additionally, “signs of depression and anxiety…occurred 44.7% more in recyclers than within the average neighborhood referent group” according to a study in Brazil (48). In addition to stress-related issues, the social stigma attached to “working in a dirty job” may form a “self-fulfilling prophecy” where informal recyclers “lose [a] sense of dignity” (48).

 · As mentioned, recyclers may consume food from the waste, risking infection.” Further nutrition issues are addressed as social problems” (48).

· “Malnutrition, infant growth retardation, and anemia are more prevalent in individuals and families who work in informal recycling” (48). “Oppositely, improper nutrition can also lead to obesity, as demonstrated in BMI comparisons with recyclers in Columbia” (48).

· Also, due to lack of social support, it is not uncommon to witness “young toddlers to pre-teen children working with or alongside their guardians” at landfills. At a young age “intensive working environments and heavy lifting…can have lifelong negative effects on general health or may have growth-stunting effects” (48).

Environmental Contamination

Informal recyclers play an important role in the “global challenge of environmental stewardship, addressing consumption, and raising awareness on recycling” by challenging and removing the “waste stream that would typically allow waste to be deposited, buried, or incinerated” (48). The long-term effects of working with solid waste however, may not only have negative effects on the physical and emotional health of the workers, but depending on how the materials are “collected, sorted, and transported” certain parts of the environment can also be affected by informal waste collecting” (48).

“Untreated and unregulated waste-streams have the potential to create and continue to spread infectious diseases to informal recyclers and their immediate community” (49).

Incorrect storage of organic waste can create “dangerous molds, toxins, and gases, such as methane, that can put “households, organizations, and cooperatives in danger” (49). The mishandling of waste also allows the “waste stream to propagate into other areas”…”clogging sewers, creating stagnant water, and thus producing breeding grounds for pathogenic organisms, facilitating the spread of diseases such as dengue” (49). Animals, such as livestock, birds, or rats feeding on waste at landfills or informal dump sites increase the potential of diseases, such as trichinosis and taeniasis, to be transmitted (49).

Health and the Cooperative

Most resource recovery is “unassisted and without adequate health protection measures in place” (43). “However, some recyclers in countries such as Brazil and Argentina mobilize to form cooperatives. The cooperatives allow collection, separation, and commercialization of the materials recovered from the solid waste stream in an organized and equitable fashion” (43)

“The creation and use of cooperatives and associations [can] create a working environment that fosters emotional and financial support for their members” (49).  “The activity of informal recyclers has been noted as being “individualistic” and therefore the creation of cooperatives has not been without its set of challenges” (49). Nonetheless, there have been numerous successful cooperatives, such as the aforementioned MTE in Buenos Aires, and many others in Brazil, Columbia, and throughout Latin America (49). Recycling cooperatives, “although not a means or end-product to alleviating all health issues”, does act to “strengthen the organizational base of the recyclers by opening up discourse not only between groups and individuals in other regions, but has also created a “conjoined voice for recyclers when discussing policy matters with local and regional governments” (49).

Binion and Gutberlet’s literature review exemplifies the varying and diverse health risks associated with informal recycling. The formation of a cooperative, “working alongside the government, can progressively move the informal employment into the formal sector” (49), reducing social stigmatization and marginalization and “allowing easier access to legal protection and health care” (49).

This blog entry was based on: 2012  Binion, E. & Gutberlet, J. The effects of handling solid waste on the wellbeing of informal and organized recyclers: A review of the literature. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health. 18 (1): 43-52.

The Eco-Aides: The Little Soldiers of Ecological Solid Waste Management Project in One of the Cities of the Philippines

Posted on: December 10th, 2012 by

Contributed and authored by Lea Fenix, Philippines ( 

Charlie wakes up at 5 o’clock in the morning, hopped on his bicycle-cart and makes rounds within the barangay (village) where he lives collecting segregated garbage from the households. Once he finishes collection, he would put the garbage inside plastic garbage bins, classifying further into three types of waste: recyclables, bio-degradable and residuals. These garbage bins are picked up by the city garbage trucks and ended in the city’s dumpsite.  When the sanitary landfill starts operating, city’s garbage will have to be thrown in this facility thereby closing the old dumpsite.

Everyday Charlie does this as a way of supporting his small family earning at least P 150 to P 200 ($30-40) daily by selling the recyclable materials which the households would give to him instead of selling them to the junkshops. Some residents also voluntarily give him small amounts in return for picking up their garbage.   

For 13 years, Charlie earns his living by plying passengers through his pedicab (a bicycle with a side cart enough to transport 2 persons, a means of transportation within inner streets of the city). Now, Charlie has become one of the 270 eco-aides in a major city in the Philippines collecting segregated garbage from households as the city practises ecological solid waste management.

The project was funded by the Agencia Espaňola de Cooperacion Internacional para el Desarrollo (AECID) or the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation in line with the Republic Act 9003 or the Solid Waste Management Act of the Philippines enacted in 2001. Eco-aides like Charlie were selected by their village council to help in the collection of segregated garbage from the households.

In the 49 villages covered by the project, the waste generation and disposal system and problems were identified through consultation with residents and village officials in order to design a more appropriate collection system. Information and education campaign (IEC) activities are being done such as radio plugging, dissemination of leaflets containing information on how to segregate garbage to further to continuously instilled the discipline of segregation. Just lately they have organized themselves and elected their own set of officers.

The city has already passed ordinance requiring business owners and operators to undergo seminar on solid waste management before issuing business permits. A seminar-workshop was done for business sector to identify actions they can do to pursue solid waste management as a way of practising social responsibility.

Also, the schools will integrate the solid waste management in their curriculum through different modules from first to sixth grades. Comics for these pupils will also be issued to further enhance understanding of elementary pupils on ecologically managing waste through this popular medium.

Charlie said that he’s happy with being an eco-aide, aside from the fact that he received a monthly honorarium from the city, he gets other usable items that he is able to use personally from the garbage that the village people throw such as old toys, thermos and videos… truly supporting the truth that garbage is a resource at the wrong place.