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Transforming waste into opportunities

MUTA World

6. Clean Water and Sanitation 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities 12. Responsible Consumption and Production 15. Life on Land

Overview

MUTA is a Colombian recycling company that collects recyclable materials to reintroduce them into the productive chain. Founded in 2014 (previously named Reaceico), the company started as a used oil recycler for small restaurants. The goal was procuring the used kitchen oil, filtering it using special equipment, and selling it back to gas producers. For years, this provided the company with the platform for expansion, starting operations in the 5 largest cities in the country.

In 2020, the company released the MUTA App. This waste-tech platform allows every waste originator in the economy to turn in every type of waste for safe disposal or recycling. Individuals, small businesses and large corporations can hand in materials, such as used oil, glass, plastics, metals, paper and cardboard. It is a convenient, one-stop waste collection platform for millions. MUTA is a step in the right direction towards achieving Clean Water and Sanitation, Formal Work and Sustainable Cities. The app is currently available in iOS and Android in Colombia and plans to expand to more countries in 2022.


Author

Carlos Martes

Carlos Martes

School

York University- Schulich School of Business

York University- Schulich School of Business

Professor

Charles Cho

Charles Cho

Innovation

In today's economy, the average household recycles by separating their waste, storing it in a blue bin, and setting it apart for collection (or throwing it down a trash chute) a few times a month. From there, we lose track of the recycling process, hoping the waste reaches the suitable agents for handling, preparation, and, luckily, reintroduction.

Now, imagine having the option of going through your phone, opening the MUTA app, and scheduling a collection date of all your recyclable waste. A bit more convenient, right? That is not it. Once the pick-up truck collects the waste within the next 24 hours, the user receives a notification on their phone getting cash back based on the materials and weight collected. Then, within the next 48 hours, the user gets a detailed breakdown of the properties of the collected waste, how much of it can be reused or recycled, and the environmental impact it had.

MUTA is a platform that allows everyone to recycle and keep track of the entire recycling process while making money!

Transforming waste into opportunities

Inspiration

While in a small restaurant in Mexico City, Alejandro Caiaffa (founder of MUTA) saw a small truck parking by the driveway. Two workers got off the truck, and came into the space with two large bins, going into the kitchen. A couple of minutes later, the workers came out with what appeared to be hefty bins. At that moment, Alejandro was having dinner with the son of the owner of the restaurant. He asked him what that process was, and his friend replied: "We are selling our used cooking oil to a recycling company, can you imagine? We would dispose of it otherwise." It was November 2013.

In 2014, Alejandro founded Reaceico (MUTA's previous name) in Barranquilla, Colombia. With just one small truck, the company would collect used oil from small restaurants, bring it back to their facility in the city's suburbs, filter it and sell it to local biodiesel production plants. Currently, MUTA operates in the largest cities in the country owns a large oil treatment plant, recycling facilities, and five warehouses. The company has secured partnerships with large public and private organizations in Colombia. In 2020, the MUTA App went live, aiming to collect waste from more people with tremendous success.

As Alejandro says, the initial goal was to have a small impact on the community through Clean Water and Sanitation (Goal 6). However, as the business expanded, realized that the effects also translate into Decent Work and Economic Growth (Goal 8) and Sustainable Cities (Goal 11).

Overall impact

Colombia and most Latin American countries have a weak recycling infrastructure. MUTA is there to bridge that gap, divesting waste from landfills and reintroducing what is useful into the economy.

On the one hand, the company collects the waste to identify what can be reused and recycled, mitigating the negative impact of waste on the environment (it all goes to landfills). Used oil, for example, is usually disposed of through water pipes that eventually contaminate bodies of water.

On the other hand, a lot of the waste materials are reprocessed for individual or corporate use through the recycling process. The filtered vegetable oil, for instance, is supplied to biodiesel production plants in Europe, which will now generate 80% less GHG than producing it with hydrocarbons. Also, the company manufactures sustainable clothing, office supplies, and furniture with recycled plastic and fabric.

Business benefit

The company benefits from a more extensive customer base through the MUTA app. Now, millions of people will have access to the collection service. As more people become part of the community, the model can be expanded to more locations and impact more communities. Also, the goal is to expand the platform to other Latin American countries in 2022.

Social and environmental benefit

The effects of the platform on the environment are self-explanatory. However, Alejandro envisions MUTA as a community where employees, communities, and cities benefit from an integrated circular chain. The social impact of the business is tremendous, and it starts with its employees.

When the organization started, the MUTA team was formed by four members, whereas now, there are over 40 direct employees. Alejandro emphasizes the fact that the expansion of the business has not come from cost reduction strategies but from the continuous recruitment and training of workers that once were part of the informal labour market. Over 20 of their current employees were informal recyclers that, daily, walked 10 to 15 kilometres from 5 AM to 9 PM on a hand-made cart, picking up waste around the cities to only earn around COP $30.000/day (USD $7/day). MUTA has provided its employees and their families with better opportunities, education, and health that they did not have before. The goal is to continue creating jobs for people in the informal recycling market that live in deplorable conditions.

"We cannot base this business on informal labour, even if social conditions in Latin America allow for it" said Alejandro. One of the touching stories that he mentioned involved one worker that had less than 1 month on the job. His wife just had their third child, and Alejandro approached him and told him he had the right to go on paternity leave. Surprised, the immediate reaction from the employee was to refuse because he needed the money for the monthly expenses; however, Alejandro clarified that he still was going to get paid because that is one of the benefits of having a formal job. The worker was in his high 40s. After working on the streets since he was fifteen, he never had the chance to be with his family during the first weeks of his children's birth. He ended up crying tears of joy, grateful to be a part of the organization.

This is not the only social benefit. Some other initiatives involve beach cleaning campaigns that all 'Mutants' (members of the MUTA platform) can be a part of through the app services and interactive training sessions on how, where and why to recycle.

Interview

Alejandro Caiaffa, Founder

Photo of interviewee

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MUTA World

MUTA World

CO

Business Website: https://mutaworld.com

Year Founded: 2014

Number of Employees: 11 to 50

MUTA (previously Reaceico) is specialized in collecting, handling, disposing and treating waste through its Waste-tech platform: MUTA. Founded in 2014, the company started as a used oil recycler (AVU) in Colombia and has expanded its operations throughout the country to collect all types of reusable waste in every segment.

Through its latest breakthrough, MUTA App, the organization wants to allow every individual and business in the continent to have a sustainable impact in ways never seen before.