Marcus Bitencourt

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2005


This profile was prepared when Marcus Bitencourt was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2005.
The New Idea
Marcos is transforming the recycling industry in Brazil by creating new markets for recycled goods in poor, traditionally marginalized communities. Where others see garbage, he produces value—in terms of economic benefit, social empowerment, and environmental preservation.
His first innovation stems from the realization that poor, rural communities can form robust markets when they are offered products that truly meet their needs. He works with rural villagers to identify and design products that can create real economic benefits for their families and neighbors. In doing so, Marcos creates broad demand for his goods, clearing the way for the growth of a new industry.
The structure of this industry forms his second innovation. Marcos has eliminated the gap between the raw materials of the urban street collector and the finished products sold by businesses, enabling collectors to create their own high-quality goods for direct sale. Using his methods, each collector produces goods for which strong markets already exist, ensuring a much higher profit margin while offering a new product to a population in need. Through his new chains of production and consumption, Marcos has dramatically reduced the materials cost of production thanks to efficient recycling, and greatly increased the earnings potential of both collectors and rural communities.
As they create new economic opportunities for hundreds of urban and rural poor, Marcos’ innovations promote environmental preservation by providing a model of profitability and sustainability for the struggling Brazilian recycling industry. This new business model is positioned to change recycling and business model practices across the region.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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