The city of Jundiai, Brazil, once struggled with litter-cluttered streets and trash-filled waterways. But 10 years ago, the city government launched a new program, called Delicious Recycling, designed to get more residents to recycle. In exchange for collecting cans and bottles, the city gives residents fresh produce grown in a local public garden. Now, the garden grows more than 30,000 plants to keep up with demand.

Other cities in Central and South America — particularly in Brazil — have similar programs. Curitiba, Brazil, began a recycling incentive program even earlier, offering transportation passes in exchange for recyclables. Residents of local shantytowns are employed to collect more trash, and the recyclable materials are sold to raise money for social services. The city now recycles 70 percent of its waste.

Residents in Mexico City exchange points earned by recycling for fresh produce.

Inspired by the other programs, Mexico City is also now offering food in exchange for recycling. The city has a major challenge with waste; it closed the largest landfill in the world last year, a 927-acre space that collected more than 76 million tons of trash. Now, the closed landfill will be tapped to generate power through its methane emissions. But every day, the city produces around 12,600 metric tons of new trash, and the government is looking for ways to dramatically cut that. The waste-to-food program is helping. When residents bring in their recycling, they’re given “green points” that can be spent at a local farmers’ market. It’s been a success so far, and the first market was so popular that all three tons of food were quickly given away.

Photo credits: City of Mexico City