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[GreenYes] Fw: Zero Waste Brazil: Lixo e Cidadania
----- Original Message -----
From: "Neil Tangri" <>
Sent: Tuesday, February 19, 2002 5:50 PM
Subject: Zero Waste Brazil: Lixo e Cidadania

I just got back from Brazil, and with the help of Karen Suassuna, the
Greenpeace toxics campaigner there, made some fascinating discoveries that
relate strongly to our Zero Waste efforts.

As you all know, much of the Zero Waste efforts have come from
industrialized countries -- New Zealand, Canada, Australia, US. Where
successful programs do exist in the Third World, such as in Cairo or the
Sinai, they are often conceptualized not in terms of high diversion rates
(although they clearly qualify) but as dignified job-generation schemes,
public services provided by small-scale enterprise, etc. Of course, this
fits with the Zero Waste concept -- it is a way of improving the economy,
improving the environment, restoring dignity to work WHILE recycling -- but
it means that if we are only looking for high diversion rates, we may miss
some very exciting programs. Such is the case in Brazil.

In Brazil, there are initiatives throughout the country, at both state- and
city-levels, to work with the wastepickers (called catadores in
Portuguese). The push for much of this comes from UNICEF, whose focus is to
get children out of the unsafe scavenging environment, by working with the
catadores to improve their conditions. The country has an estimated 200,000
to 800,000 catadores, of whom 45,000 are children. The diversion rates are
not impressive -- they max out at about 30% -- but I think that this is
because they are only pulling recyclabes, and not dealing with the
organics, which are sent to landfills or open dumps. Since organics
constitute at least 50% of the waste stream in most countries, I believe
that adding a composting, vermicomposting or animal feed component could
achieve diversion levels in the 80%+ range.

But what is really exciting about the situation in Brazil is the degree of
organization. The catadores have formed themselves into associations and
cooperatives to support their work, and last year held a national
conference -- the first national congress of catadores -- attended by more
than 1300 people from all over the country. They now have a national forum,
with its own publication "Lixo e Cidadania" (Waste and Citizenship), they
lobby for improved work conditions, try to get children out of the
collection & recycling business and into schools, etc. etc. In other words,
the catadores have self-organized to the extent that they are now
represented by formal organizations, and are implementing programs of their
own devising.

In Sao Paulo, for example, a wide variety of organizations, including
environmental, social groups, catadores' organizations, and even some
industry, has put out a Platform on waste & citizenship. All this means
that it should be extremely easy to introduce some of the zero waste
techniques from Egypt or elsewhere in a way that works not only for waste
diversion, but also to aid the catadores themselves.

You can get more information on some of these initiatives from these

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