Saturday, March 26, 2011

Brazil top in recycling aluminum cans

It sounds like a good story, but wait…

We’ve all been there: you are enjoying a beer on the beach and a young boy or an elderly woman comes to your table and asks if they can have your empty beer can. Sometimes you are asked three times by three different people before you can even empty the can. Such is the trade in aluminum recycling.

At street fairs there are people dressed in rags crushing cans under their flip-flop-clad feet. It is impossible to walk the streets without seeing a person tipping open the trash containers strapped to light poles looking for discarded cans. People partying in the street don’t think twice about tossing their empty cans onto the ground because they are certain they will be picked up in only moments by a soggy poor soul dragging a large plastic bag filled with cans.

On one hand, being the country with the worldwide highest aluminum can recycling rate for the past nine years might be a good thing. But on the other it can be understood as a symptom of the intense poverty that affects so many families here.

In 2006, aluminum can recycling in the U.S. was only 52%. During the same year, it was 94.4% in Brazil. This comparison reports more than just an enthusiasm for recycling. Read more here.


Meredith said...

I'm really sensitive to suffering and poverty and it breaks my heart to see people picking up aluminum cans at a party and/or a bar/restaurant. It just goes to show the disparities between the classes in Latin America (it's not just Brazil).

In regards to people throwing their cans/garbage on the ground because they know someone will pick it up...that just pisses me off. Just an excuse to be lazy. But I guess if your mother never taught you to throw away your garbage, what can I do?

Informative post.

Gil and Ray said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gil and Ray said...

I think it goes beyond the depressing facts of the poor picking up trash all over for recycling.
My brother and his wife just moved into a brand new apartment building high rise near downtown Sao Paulo and they were one of the first residents, so they noticed the city still hadn't set up recycling in their building.
My brother called the city and they sent a city employee from the recycle department responsible for training new apartment communities the very next morning to set up the recycling project in their new high rise apartment community.
They are super organized and efficient. I noticed they are better with recycling that our town here in Rhode Island. Here the city offer no solution for old discarded batteries for example. I have a huge box with old discarded batteries at our house that I have no idea what to do with, the city offers no solution for these batteries, when I called and asked, they told me to contact the manufacturer and ask for a recycle solution for our old batteries.

We have some of those long old light bulbs that have a gas inside and can explode, highly poisonous, I have no way to dispose of them. We have about 15 of them collected in our garage in the last 7 years, I have no idea what to do with them. The city tells us it is illegal to dispose of them in the garbage but doesn't give us any solution for it.

We only have a Gray Bin for organic trash, a Blue bin for plastic, glass and aluminum and a Green Bin for paper, that is it.
The city brought my brother's building a special container for batteries and discarded rechargeable batteries from old phones etc...besides the usual color coded bins in each floor for organic garbage, plastic, glass and aluminum.
They have one day of the week to dispose of old computers, TVs and other electronics or large appliances, they call a "Bota fora" day, which means "Put it out day", it is one day of the week they encourage everyone to get rid of old furniture and other stuff cluttering up your house, the city sends out special crews with trucks to collect these large bulky items.


Gil and Ray said...


They need to call the city when they have a certain number of burned long light bulbs, the ones filled with mercury, the city sends in a special crew with a truck that only collects those bulbs and properly discards them.

The programs are well known by the community and the community takes advantage of the programs.
The city of Sao Paulo and surrounding area takes recycling very seriously.

Off course, it could be the fact that we live in a small town in New England and Sao Paulo has a way more complex trash issue to organize it and avoid chaos.

But I can tell you, I can't stand walking around New York city and having to circle around "mountains" of stinking garbage bags from high rise apartments and restaurants, they sure need to learn a few things from Sao Paulo when it comes to garbage collection and disposal.

Perhaps, there should be an exchange, New Yorkers send city employees to learn how to deal with recycling and garbage disposal and organization and Sao Paulo sends in their cops to learn on how to improve safety in better police the city :) Everybody wins!!

I remember seeing color coded recycle bins in the beaches of Sao Paulo state back in the early 90's when recycling was still a novelty subject in most of the world and parts of Brazil.

The city of Sao Sebastiao, where Ilhabela is located has a recycle collection color coded bin system even in deserted islands, used by boaters and people who own Yachts. The city has a fleet of garbage collecting boats that go around the Islands and different beaches and collects organic garbage and recycled items.

Good news is that your new major in Rio is doing a great job in cleaning up the city and enforcing "DO NOT LITTER" laws. Organizing street vendors and bringing a great sense of order to the city, just in time for the up and coming Olympic Games and the World cup.

His decisions are not popular with many but I think Rio will only benefit from it in the long run.
I have to confess to you, I cannot stand the way they allow these poor people to pull carts filled with garbage around the cities with cardboard, aluminum etc...
If the city really wanted to help them, I think they should offer a solution.

My idea, round up all the poor folks "working" in the recycling business around the city picking up aluminum cans and cardboard boxes and train them and employ them in the city's pay roll.

Pass laws making it illegal to push carts of garbage around and block the already traffic clogged streets.
Give these men and women mechanized trucks and tools to make the "garbage" recycling collection more efficient. These folks will be the best city employees for this type of job, after all, they already know where to find the "recycle" garbage around the city.
Impose hefty fines to the A-holes littering the city and the beaches to pay for the training and salary of the poor folks who will now be working for the city and the recycle department.

DONE. Problem solved!

Gil and Ray said...


I think Gil and I need to come down to Niteroi and run for city council and put some of these ideas to work.
Hope I can count on your support!



Jim said...

Ray - c'mon down! There is a lot of low hanging fruit that could provide a quick improvement.

We live in the most chic/expensive neighborhood and we are officially instructed by the city to place our garbage on the sidewalk in front of our house for collection (not even in containers!) It is rediculous.

Some businesses recycle, but the city is not doing very much, that's for sure.

compactors said...

Great job for Brazil for being the number one aluminum can recycler! Recycling aluminum cans do take less effort, why can't anyone do it?