In October, the Inter-American Foundation (IAF) launched a three-year public-private partnership with Danone Argentina, a leading global company that produces beverages and dairy and nutrition products, the Danone Ecosystem Fund—an endowment fund focused on developing general interest activities that create and strengthen sustainable and inclusive economic models globally—and Fundación Avina Argentina, a Latin American foundation that promotes systemic changes for sustainable development.

The IAF, an independent U.S. federal foreign assistance agency that supports community-led development in Latin America and the Caribbean, will join forces with these three organizations that have been working together in the recycling sector for approximately a decade. Danone’s long-standing collaboration with Fundación Avina Argentina, a philanthropic foundation that has supported and empowered over 3,500 cartoneros, urban recyclers who make a living collecting and selling recyclable materials, in Argentina, has already shown impressive results. To date, they have linked 27 recycling cooperatives directly to larger waste generators and buyers of recycled materials, secured a fair wage for cartoneros, and increased public recognition for their work through appropriate public policies. They have also significantly reduced the volume of waste in the environment in Argentina. The new partnership will build on these achievements.

The organizations will work together to increase recycling rates, reduce the volume of waste in the environment, and improve the quality of life of cartoneros in Argentina. As part of the informal sector, cartoneros have few workplace protections and their social contribution is undervalued. The partnership will support 40 recycling cooperatives representing 4,500 cartoneros in gaining professional recognition and making recycling systems more functional in 35 cities in Argentina. It will also recover approximately 4,000 tons of waste material, doubling the amount recovered by the project to date. Danone Argentina will recover approximately 300 tons of Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) to be used as recycled PET for packaging. This project is especially timely to help restart the recycling sector, as COVID-19 dramatically affected cartoneros’ livelihoods and the amount of material that locals recycled.

Bringing a Partnership Together

Commenting on the partnership, Agustin Mostary, General Manager of Danone Argentina, said: “Since 2012, thanks to the contribution of investment funds from the Danone Ecosystem Fund, we have developed an inclusive recycling program with Fundación Avina, which looks to empower the recycling ecosystem, professionalize the role of urban recycling cooperatives, and increase the collection rates and the recycling in Argentina. With the addition of a new partner, the IAF, we will be able to scale our work and reinforce our commitment to an inclusive circular economy that prioritizes social investment and minimizes environmental impact.”

How did Danone Argentina and the Danone Ecosystem Fund choose the Inter-American Foundation as a partner? Timothee Murillo, Senior Manager for Danone Ecosystem Fund, notes, “The project needed a partner that is deeply committed to the development of Latin America, with a strong and transparent governance and a highly developed and efficient approach to jointly design, implement, measure, and evaluate the impact of our financial contribution. As a respected U.S. government agency, the IAF brings 50 years of grassroots development expertise to our partnership. It has an extensive track record of almost three decades of supporting community-based recycling initiatives in nine Latin American countries, including Argentina.”

The Inter-American Foundation also saw much to be gained from the collaboration. IAF Senior Advisor for Strategic Partnerships Marcia Cota says,We were excited to partner with the Danone Ecosystem Fund and Danone Argentina. These Danone entities have an extensive reach and private sector-based expertise in areas such as sustainable value chains, innovative socioeconomic models, emerging markets, and complex project management.”

This partnership is the culmination of one year of discussions of best fit, comparative advantage, mutual benefit, and selection of geographic and thematic areas. Based on those conversations, “it made the most sense to us to collaborate with the Danone Ecosystem Fund and Danone Argentina in strengthening and extending their work with Fundación Avina by all directly investing in the project,” according to Marcia Cota. “All four of our organizations will check in every six months to review our progress, address any challenges, and make adjustments as needed. Our collaboration will serve as a pilot, with an eye to expanding our partnership beyond supporting recycling in Argentina into new thematic and geographic areas.” 

Projected Benefits of the Partnership

The IAF-Danone Argentina partnership in alliance with the Danone Ecosystem Fund and Fundación Avina Argentina seeks to provide concrete results and an opportunity to exchange knowledge and learn together on the ground. The economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected vulnerable groups like the cartoneros, and a major initial focus for the partnership will be restarting their economic activity following safety and hygiene protocols. The partners project they will be able to help thousands of cartoneros generate income, promote local economic development, and improve their safety, working, and living conditions. By combining their resources, expertise, and networks, they can achieve far more together than they could individually.

This blog was written and contributed by:


Rebecca Nelson

Writer/Editor, External and Governmental Affairs

Inter-American Foundation