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[GreenYes] Brazil & Recycling
January 2, 2001
Brazil Is Set to Become a Leader In Recycling of Aluminum Cans
Associated Press

 RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- Brazilians don't pay deposits on containers,
rarely separate their trash and think little of tossing an empty soda
can from a car window. "Please Don't Litter" signs are roundly ignored.

Yet Brazil is poised to catch up with Japan as a leader among the
world's biggest countries in recycling aluminum cans.

The reason is Luiz Carlos Carola, and a legion like him.

Mr. Carola was homeless when he started collecting cans outside the Rio
bus station three years ago. Today, he has a roof over his head, spends
his weekends at a modest beach resort outside the city and earns about
$260  a month -- not bad money in a country where nearly half the people
get by on $150 a month or less.

 "As long as there are ill-mannered people, I'll earn a good living,"
Mr.  Carola says.

 Ecological consciousness has been slow in coming to Brazil, where the
poor have little education and the well-off have maids to pick up after
them. Throwaway containers are tossed everywhere, and beachgoers think
nothing of leaving a pile of garbage behind when they go home.

All the same, the Brazilian Aluminum Association says the country should
recycle 80% of the 9.5 billion aluminum cans sold in 2000. That would
put them up with the current leader, Japan, which recycled 79% of its
cans in1999.

Some small European countries recycle almost 90% of their cans, but the
association says Japan and Brazil are far ahead of other populous

For instance, the United States recycled 63% of its cans in 1999, and
Europe as a whole recycled 41%. The rate was 51% in Argentina, South
America's second-largest economy after Brazil.

There's more than altruism involved. Recycling can be good business.

To produce a ton of aluminum from scratch requires five tons of bauxite
and 16,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity. With recycling, you need a ton
of old cans and just 750 kilowatt-hours of electricity, a boon for a
country  straining to meet electricity demand.

Aluminum cans are relatively new to Brazil. They were introduced only in
1990, when the Skol brewery began using them to provide a smaller, more
convenient alternative to the traditional 22-ounce, glass bottles.

Since then, the market for aluminum cans has grown more than 3,000
percent, and recycling them has become a $110 million a year industry
that employs an estimated 150,000 people, the aluminum association says.

 "The mainspring that drives [recycling] is the sheer volume of garbage
pickers we have," says Elder Rondelli, marketing and recycling manager
for aluminum maker Alcan.

"But it's not just because Brazil is a miserable country and it's just
the poor  who are recycling. It's starting to penetrate the middle

Aluminum is the "gold" of garbage picking -- pound for pound worth 10
times more than plastic, 12 times more than glass and 30 times more than
paper on the local recycling market. A full-time can collector can earn
up  to five times the minimum wage.

Thanks to cans, Mr. Carola is now what the Brazilian government calls a

 Still, the aluminum industry wants to move beyond reliance on the
professional trash collectors. It is trying to teach more privileged
Brazilians  to recycle with an educational program directed at schools,
hotels and tenant associations.

The most aggressive of these efforts is headed by the aluminum-can
maker  Latasa, which accounts for half of Brazil's can market and a
fourth of all recycling. Today, 55% of Latasa's cans are made from
recycled aluminum.

Latasa has 16,000 institutions involved in a program that awards cash
and prizes in return for used cans. The company also has 47 recycling
centers around Rio and Sao Paulo where collectors can sell aluminum for
equivalent of 36 cents a pound and also buy food at discount prices.

 "We saw the proliferation of cans could be a problem, so we decided to
invest in recycling early on," said Latasa's recycling director, Jose

Mr. Giosa says Latasa's success has stirred interest in recycling other

"Other sectors will have to follow because the public demands it," he
says,  pointing out that 18 new recycling laws are pending in Brazil's

But Mr. Giosa questions whether legislation mandates for recycling is
the  proper approach.

"We developed a Brazilian solution, we didn't have to copy anyone and
we  learned through trial and error," he says. "It was done with taxes
or subsidies and it was based totally on the market. That's why it

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