A maior geradora de energia limpa e renovável do planeta

Solidary Recycling
Tamanho da letra

Brazil closed the 20th century filling its landfills every day with around 59% of almost 150,000 metric tons of garbage collected, according to a survey done by the Brazilian Institute of Economy and Statistics (IBGE) published in 2000. The liquid generated in these locations is called leachate and it penetrates the soil and contaminates underground waters and rivers. The gases produced can cause explosions and fire and in some cases fatal victims. The putrid smell can be felt from far away and the food scraps attract rats, flies, cockroaches, and people—poor people that have not found another form of survival.

These informal trash recyclers that look more like human scavengers are a common site in landfills and on the streets. These workers collect recyclable material to survive and work in adverse and high risk conditions. The trash, therefore, transmits a clear evidence of social exclusion and human degradation.

Considering the importance of cleanliness in public places and sanitation in cities located within the BP3 and outside of it such as effluent treatment, the ecologically correct final disposal of organic waste, recyclable and inorganic materials, along with the need of awareness of the population, it was considered essential to implement a pilot project in Foz do Iguaçu that served as a reference point for the municipal administrations in the region.

Search for solutions

Based on this scenario, the Solidary Recycling Project was based on finding solutions to the problem of trash, specifically with the people directly affected by it--the informal trash recyclers. A waste management program was implemented in order to reach the following targets:

- Support for the organization of the informal trash recyclers into associations and co-ops for the work of gathering, classifying, and selling recyclable materials
- Making the population aware as to the importance of the selective waste in its social and environmental aspects
- Gain back the self esteem and increase the income of the trash recyclers
- Social inclusion of the informal trash recyclers' families, eradicating children working in the trash, proposing to the city administration to provide daycares and schools for them and include them in social programs
- Training of partners for making available Processing Centers with sheds, presses, scales, and other means for storing and adding value to the materials gathered by the trash recyclers
- Inclusion of informal trash recyclers in municipal programs to teach them how to read and write
- Replication of the Foz do Iguaçu Project in other cities around the BP3 region and the rest of Brazil

Steering Committee

This project has been made possible due to the formation of a Steering Committee in which representatives from the trash recyclers participate democratically with the city administrations and other partners. The formulation and operation of agreements increased Itaipu’s success in supporting and stimulating solidary recycling.

All the targets referred to above were and are followed by various partners that make up the Steering Committee and that are essential for the project’s progress. Some of them are as follows: Government Department of Labor, City Halls, the NGO Trash and Citizenship Institute, the Environmental Recyclers Association of Foz do Iguaçu (ARAFOZ), and the National Movement of Trash Recyclers (MNCR). The Steering Committee is the body that makes it possible for society to participate in the project. That is where the dialogues take place and proposals are made for action plans (Agenda 21) and then put into practice by those involved.

Income improvement

The project benefits 600 people, but intends to increase much more the number of people benefitted. Informal trash recyclers that before used to earn between R$ 120 and R$ 180 after the solidary efforts began receiving up to R$ 700 every month. In Foz do Iguaçu alone there are nine sheds where trash recyclers from the Environmental Agents Co-op of Foz do Iguaçu (COAAFI)  gather more than 240 metric tons of recyclable materials a month and reach an income between R$ 350 and R$ 500 per member.

In the past it was a fact that most of the informal trash recyclers had to borrow or rent their cart from middlemen and so were basically their slaves, which motivated the project to manufacture and distribute for free their main tool for working. Another important point was the distribution of uniforms to the trash recyclers, but, without a doubt, a fundamental step in the consolidation of the project was making available Processing Centers equipped with presses and scales, providing the co-ops and associations of trash recyclers substantial gains.

Today 13 cities have built recycling sheds called Processing Centers of Recycling Materials. It is up to each trash recycler to administrate his/her own equipment and some of them have taken training courses, learned how to read and write, and even taken computer classes. Through the agreement between Itaipu and the Trash and Citizenship Institute, all the trash recycler groups receive permanent assistance.

Other agreements have been made such as those established between Itaipu and COAAFI in order to offer electric carts for gathering the materials. This vehicle, tested and changed with the help of the trash recyclers, is another way of socializing energy that is so expensive in our days as well as meeting a fundamental demand of any group through means of social-political identification: give public visibility of a way that involves others and is human.

The actions of a project this size have earned their own profile with its own adaptations and changes in an interactive process between different actors striving for the same objective. During this process there rose a need to implement one more convention, this with the National Movement of Trash Recyclers (MNCR), establishing new actions for the strengthening of their organization, opening even more the door to their social-political visibility.

The improvement in the quality of life, therefore, and increase in the income became a reality. Success stories caused Solidary Recycling to reach a status of social inclusion model for informal trash recyclers in all the country.

All the reports coming from the cities in the BP3 region have been positive, especially that of the self-esteem of these people who before were marginalized and disrespected by society. Today they are recognized for the important role their work has for the environment and are taking on the condition of entrepreneurs, deciding the direction of their own business, and by this becoming agents of development in their cities.

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