The waste pickers social movement has won important public policies to improve its activity and recycling. In thispaper, after identifying social and environmental policy instruments related to recycling, the difficulties faced by thewaste pickers associations (WAs) to apply them are discussed. Documental analysis of these instruments reveals implicitcontradictions, made apparent when these policies are confronted to the daily experiences of waste pickers. Given thesecontradictions, our thesis is that in addition to political action, the durable performance of WAs depends on thesustainability of operational processes. Analyses from an operational point of view, held by a technical group integratedin the social network that supports the organization and operational management of associations, identify weaknessesto be overcome to give sustainability to the WAs and recycling as a socio-environmental alternative treatment of urbanwaste. More than reinforcing policies, we emphasize the need for coordinated actions organized in a specific strategy,under the governance of the waste pickers social movement.