Many people separate dry waste from organic waste, but we know little about the destination of these materials. If, indeed, they are used for recycling, isn’t it possible to also reuse organic waste? The final destination of waste is a major concern of our cities today. Most of the waste still goes to unsafe landfills, which are increasingly distant and have a massive impact on the areas where they are implemented. After all, who wants to live with a landfill on the side of their home or workplace?
To get an idea of the problem, in the city of São Paulo, Brazil, we have recycling bins in 46% of households, but less than 2% of our waste is actually reused. In other words, selective collection recycling is of no use if one does not, in fact, reuse these materials. In order to increase our ability to recycle, earlier this month the city of São Paulo opened the first central mechanized sorting of recyclable waste in Latin America, called the “Ponte Pequeno” (Small Bridge). Located in the region of Bom Retiro, it has the capacity to process up to 250 tons of recyclables per day.
One of the major limitations to the expansion of recycling is the accumulation of recycled material and the difficulty of transporting them for reuse, as a result of bulkiness. If it accumulates in large quantities in recycling plants, be they recycling cooperatives or companies, it also greatly limits the potential of the city to expand the capacity to recycle. However, now that separated waste can be compressed mechanically, it can reduce the volume and thus can be transported more easily.
The revenue generated by the central marketing of processed materials constitute the Municipal Fund for Selective Collection, Reverse Logistics and Inclusion of Recyclers. This fund will enable the hiring of collectors to work within the central cooperatives – for the screening of materials and operation of machines, for example – and also allow partnerships with other cooperatives, which will continue acting externally on the selective collection. The fund will be managed by a board consisting of nine members, three from civil society, three from the government and three from municipal recycling cooperatives.
By incorporating cooperative practices in the implementation of the new selective collection system, the working conditions of scavengers is expected to improve, as is an increase in their pay. From the installation of the plant, the expectation is to increase the percentage of waste recycled in São Paulo to 10% by 2016. Additionally, the city aims for all households to have selective collection recycling.
For the issue of waste disposal, another interesting development is the recent launch of the project Compost São Paulo, a civil society initiative, championed by the City, which initially distributed two thousand compost bins to households, better known as minhocários. These composters turn organic waste into compost and can be placed in yards, service stations, garages and even kitchens.
This is a critical initiative considering that currently 51% of the waste produced in our homes is organic waste that cannot be recycled; going straight to landfills. Increasing the scale and coverage of recycling and developing new forms of waste recycling, including organic waste, could propel São Paulo forward in tackling one of the greatest environmental challenges in urban areas today.
What recycling innovations has your city created or adopted?
Original article, originally published in Portuguese, can be found here.
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