The Green Exchange Program, Curitiba: Urban Food Policy Snapshot

by Alexina Cather, MPH
Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series

Food Policy: The Green Exchange Program

Overview: The Green Exchange Program is a city-wide initiative where residents trade recyclable materials for fresh produce. Every four kilograms of recyclables can be traded for one kilogram of fresh fruits and vegetables. The program guarantees the sale of surplus crop production and helps to keep the environment clean by encouraging recycling efforts. A partnership between SMMA (Secretaria Municipal do Meio Ambiente) and SMAB (Secretaria Municipal do Abastecimento), two Curitiba city agencies, has created the Green Exchange Program.

Location: Curitiba, Brazil

  • Population: 1.752 million (2010 UN data)
  • Capital of the Brazilian state, Parana; the largest city in southern Brazil

Food policy category: Food waste prevention, reduction and management

Program Initiated: June 1991

Progress to date:  By 2007 the program had recovered over 45 thousand tons of waste from ending up in landfills. Today, the program is still in existence and has developed abundantly. It now includes the Special Green Exchange Program which takes place in schools city-wide.

Program goals:

  • To assist small farmers with crop sales and prevent waste among farms with crop surpluses
  • To make fresh produce more accessible and affordable for low-income residents
  • To improve nutritional patterns of the population by facilitating fresh produce eating habits
  • To encourage and incentivize recycling and environmental preservation among Curitiba residents

How it works:

  • Funds from the Curitiba Department of the Environment (SMMA) are used to buy surplus crops from regional farms.
  • These farms are represented and coordinated by Paraná Producers Federation (FEPAR) — an association of small and medium farmers in the metropolitan region.
  • The municipality then exchanges these crops with city residents for recyclable materials (paper, cardboard, glass, metal, oil).
  • The exchange takes place every 15 days in 101 different trading sites across the city.
  • Every four kilograms of recyclables can be traded for one kilogram of fruits and vegetables; two liters of plant or animal-based oil can be exchanged for one kilogram of fruits and vegetables.

Citizens do not need to register for this program; they must simply show up to exchange sites throughout the city on designated dates. Predetermined dates and times are shared with residents through an annual calendar established by the SMMA.

Why it is important:

  • The program encourages a culture of social commitment and environmental responsibility.
  • It promotes recycling and discourages pollution while supplying city residents with free nutritious foods.
  • It supports local agriculture and prevents waste by providing an alternative destination for excess produce.
  • It encourages healthy eating by supplying free healthy foods to all residents — with a special focus on low-income communities.

Additional Information: The program includes educational initiatives aimed at the preservation of the environment, sustainable development and combating hunger and poverty.

  • “Garbage that is Not Garbage” is an advertising campaign administered by the city government to encourage residents to sort their trash into basic “organic” and “inorganic” categories.
  • Additional sorting jobs have been issued to low-income community members — to help the unemployment rate. The program was conducted with the help of the Institute for Social Integration.
  • The city has since launched the Special Green Exchange, which encourages schools to separate recyclable waste to exchange it for notebooks and other student materials.

Evaluation: By 1992 residents were recycling 70% of their garbage, and 2/3 of the city’s total trash is recycled. The city’s paper recycling alone saves the equivalent of 1,200 trees a day.

Learn more:

Point of Contact:

Similar practices: N/A


  • Fazzano, A. & Weiss, M. (2004). Global Urban Development: Curitiba, Brazil. Retrieved March 25, 2016, from
  • Forster, T., Egal, F., Renting, H., Dubbeling, M., & Escudero, A. (2015). “Milan Urban Food Policy Pact. Selected Good Practices from Cities.” Fondazione Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, Milano: Italy.
  • Frontline World Fellows. (2004). “Brazil – Curitiba’s Urban Experiment.” Public Broadcasting Service. Retrieved March 25, 2016, from
  • ICLEI-Canada. International Case Study Series. Case Study: 77. Retrieved March 25, 2016, from
  • Schwartz, H. (2004). Urban renewal, municipal revitalization: The case of Curitiba, Brazil. Alexandria, VA.
  • Town Hall of Curitiba. (2016). Curitiba’s Profile. Retrieved March 25, 2016, from
  • UN Statistics Division. (2010). UN Data: Demographic Statistics. Retrieved March 25, 2016, from,7,9,11,13,15,16,17&s=datum:desc&v=1

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