Celebrating Partnership Honoring Leadership
Ela Bhatt, Founder of the Self-Employed Women's Association, at the First Annual 2010 Fairness Award.
Albina Ruiz, Environmentalist, Peru
For Albina Ruiz trash is good business! Concerned by the health and environmental threats posed by inadequate public-sector solid waste disposal services, and the consequent accumulation of huge masses of garbage and other forms of refuse in urban areas of Peru, Ruiz came up with an idea that would impact the lives of thousands of Peruvian women.
She helped women create their own local enterprises to collect and process garbage; charging affordable fees, women have reduced waste volume in municipal landfills and generated more income by separating recyclables, spinning off additional microenterprises to produce compost and other marketable by-products. After 15 years of promoting her concept while working as a consultant to cities, industrial firms, and various international development projects, she founded Ciudad Saludable (Healthy City Group) in 2001.
Solid waste is one of Peru’s most critical public management and public health problems. Lima, with a population of over seven million, generates approximately 3,500 metric tons of waste each day and processes only 1,300 metric tons of it. The remaining is dumped illegally on streets, in open landfills, and in rivers. Ruiz’s solution has a four-part strategy: a multifaceted community-based waste management system, effective coordination with relevant public agencies, a dynamic public information and education campaign, and mobilization of financial support from different sources. Her tools are employment and income-generating micro-enterprises. The community-based system coordinates effectively with garbage and trash removal services and with other government agencies. Recognizing that sustained impact of sanitation improvements requires individual and organizational change, Ruiz educates the populace through the media and educational programs on waste-related environment and health themes.
Through Ciudad Saludable, Ruiz has organized over 1,500 waste collectors, creating employment and improving health and living conditions for over 6 million people in rural and poor urban regions of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, and India. She has established waste management systems that are more dependable and less expensive than those provided by municipal governments. Ciudad Saludable was also instrumental in the creation of the first law in Peru (as well as Latin America) regulating the activities of waste recyclers. Building on the success of Ciudad Saludable, Ruiz has established two other organizations: Peru Waste Innovation, a consulting firm specializing in solid waste management, and Healthy Cities International (New York), charged with replicating Ciudad Saludable’s model around the world.
Ruiz and Ciudad Saludable have received well-deserved international appreciation. Ashoka, Avina, Schwab Foundation, and Skoll Foundation have recognized her achievements and high growth potential, and she has been the subject of the PBS series, The New Heroes. In recognition of its environmental impact, Ciudad Saludable received the 2006 Dubai International Award for Best Practices to Improve the Living Environment, 2006 Global Development Network Award, 2007 Globe Energy Award, and the 2006 Bravo Latin Trade Award as Environmentalist of the Year in Latin America. Albina graduated from Peru’s National University of Engineering, the only woman in her class, and received a Masters in Ecology and Environmental Management from the University of Ricardo Palma, Peru, and a PhD in Chemistry from Universidad Ramon Llull in Spain.