Cities worldwide are facing new challenges in terms of waste management and how collecting waste collection impact on urban mobility. People and homes are changing the way they consume, increasingly producing household waste, specially packaging generated from home deliveries.

The new habits imply the need for bigger disposal containers for plastic packaging and cardboard. Moving waste around the city affects urban mobility, and increases informality in waste treatment.

These complex realities represent challenges, but cities are transforming them into opportunities. Several Latin American municipalities are demonstrating how, even in difficult contexts, there is space for innovation.

The SDG Local Solutions Series, organized by UNDP, brought together the cities of Hermosillo, Guatemala, and Montevideo to share their experiences. This is what we learned from them:

Hermosillo, México

The Biciclando project is an innovative system of home waste collection home collection through a network of electro-assisted bicycles driven by women recyclers (bicicladoras). The project is driven by the Municipal Institute of Urban Planning and Public Space (IMPLAN) working through three components:

  • Circular Economy Centers (CECs): collection and processing spaces that also feature as an innovation hub for female entrepreneurship, providing training on circular economy skills. 
  • Biciclando App that facilitates the collection and recycling of home waste that connects the bicicladoras directly with the homes that wishes to provide the semi-processed waste.   
  • Expanding the cycling infrastructure and improving the connectivity in the vicinity of the CECs and promoting sustainable mobility, especially for women. 

Read more about Biciclando HERE

Guatemala City, Guatemala

The UNDP Acceleration Lab in Guatemala has supported a co-creative process to produce the first solar tuk-tuk. Thanks to the collaboration of the municipality and civil society, old motorcycle cab models have been converted into an electric vehicle with solar photovoltaic charging capacity.  

The tuk-tuk can be adapted for different uses and bring services to remote areas. It can act as a mobile energy source, to collect waste, support the mobility of people with disabilities, bring medical assistance or even act as a mobile cinema!

The UNDP Small Grants Program also provides technical and financial support to innovative projects, prioritizing the participation of women and youth. This is the case of the “Bio-factories” where bioproducts such as organic soaps or fertilizers are produced, using a circular economy model, generating income and sustainability for the community.

Read the full presentation HERE

Montevideo, Uruguay 

The Municipality presented three key innovation on waste and urban mobility:

The green transition program, a project for informal recyclers that, using a “deep listening process” includes them in the design and implementation of tuk-tuks for waste management. These new tuk-tuks substitute collection systems using horses or polluting motorcycles, providing formal contracts and training to the recyclers, taking them out of informality. The project counts now with 20 tuk-tuks and by the end of 2023 it will reach 200, 2 of them, electric.

The “greener online Montevideo” model was also developed, offering online waste collection services, increasing from 6,000 cleaning solutions per year to 600,000; and from 500 voluntary delivery points to the use of Big Bags at 3,500 points in the city, ensuring 95% waste recovery. In addition to a community-based composting project

The “liberated areas” initiative, focused on cleaning up critical waste disposal points that were blocking water streams running through Montevideo. Using geo-referencing systems, the municipality has managed to identify 779 points that are being cleaned and transformed into green areas where citizens can enjoy public spaces.

Read the full presentation HERE



Even in challenging and complex situations, cities find opportunities to innovate when they work hand in hand with the community.

Social innovation happens including the communities. Identifying needs from grassroots, seeking joint solutions towards sustainable development, incorporating people´s knowledge and needs for improvement are key.

  • In Guatemala, the solar tuk-tuk reflects the importance and value of local knowledge. A process of multidisciplinary collaboration that generates diversity, tacit skills and specialized knowledge results in a prototype that people actually use.
  • Montevideo demonstrates how important is to systematically listening to communities thanks to their “deep listening” methodology. 

The challenge of cultural change in the face of innovation. Even when innovation happens working with the community, it always implies changes in cultural and individual consumption patterns. This is why implementation must go hand-in-hand with key stakeholders.

  • In Hermosillo, the correct disposal of waste by consumers is key for project success, and it implies a change in the way people traditionally dispose waste at home. If the waste is not divided by people at home, the work of the recyclers becomes almost impossible. For this reason, guiding and convincing consumers to change their habits becomes equally important as generating skills in the “bicicladoras”.
  • In Montevideo, involving citizens in reporting and monitoring waste disposal and composting has positively impacted cultural change. 

Working with the informal sector towards formalization and income generation. Taking the first steps to formalize waste collection, no matter how small, is crucial to move out of informal activities and generate stable income:  

  • In Guatemala, many tuk-tuk drivers work informally, but the solar tuk-tuk is helping them to get stable and formal jobs.
  • Hermosillo seeks to generate fair income for bicicladoras (women in vulnerable situations), above the national minimum wage.  
  • In Montevideo, social inclusion is at the core of the tuk-tuk project, offering stable income and quality jobs to recyclers.

Inclusion of women, youth and vulnerable population

  • In Hermosillo, Biciclando helps women to develop new skills and learn new abilities to collect waste and travel safely through the city. 
  • In Guatemala, part of the solar tuk-tuk solution was developed by young people; in addition, the project has contributed to the strengthening of indigenous women’s groups. 

This webinar provided an opportunity to learn from the experiences of three cities, demonstrating how small changes and pilot innovations can trigger major transformations that motivate municipalities to keep working towards a more sustainable mobility and more efficient waste management. 

You can watch the full webinar in in our Youtube Channel