An Interview with Annibeth Melo Jacob

by Akiko Segawa, Japan, ELP 2014
Written on July 14, 2014.

Hi, I’m Akiko Segawa from the University of Tokyo. I’m really enjoying classes at Berkeley with 37 professionals and seven colleagues of IARU-GSP. Today, I’d like to introduce Annibeth Melo Jacob’s work.

About the work
Anni is working for Panasonic Corporation, a Japanese multinational electronics corporation, as an environmental engineer. Panasonic has three factories in Brazil to manufacture batteries, audios, TCs, cordless phones, cameras, refrigerators, washing machines and so on. Each factory has one person who is responsible for the environmental management. She is working with them to improve the efficiency of energy consumption and to gain ISO certifications. Since 2010, she has been involved with a project to create a “take-back system” for end-of-life electronic products, because the Brazilian government requests the implementation of a take-back system in a logistic: National Policy of Solid Waste for Brazil. She and Panasonic started the project with batteries. The difficulty was in creating a way to collect the treat end-of-use batteries from all over the country, since there is only one waste treatment facility for batteries in Brazil’s extensive territory. An association to collect and treat batteries was founded together by Panasonic and three other battery manufacturers to solve this problem. Now 17 companies are affiliated with it. It started to work successfully, although there is still a problem in the treatment of batteries that are imported or manufactured by companies that don’t belong to the association.

Now she is focusing on how to apply this system for batteries to other end-of-life electronic products, and how to engage companies to invest in environmental, social and economical sustainability issues. This is a very challenging job, not only because of the variety of products (size, materials, etc.) and insufficient infrastructure, but because of the low environmental awareness of retailers and consumers.

Three pilot campaigns were done to implement the system to the whole country, and she learned how different the responses were in each case. In one city, she got seven tons of recyclable waste in a week, but in another city, she only got 500 kg, despite advertisements and TV commercials. The understanding of the importance of recycling is very different from city to city. She also found that education is important in making a satiable system. She is tackling these problems to achieve the goal: to recycle 17% of their production.

Her passion is making a difference in her country. Since her family is originally form an island in Portugal, where water and other resources were limited, it is quite natural for her to save energy and limit resource consumption. However, people in Brazil are generally unconscious of the importance of recycling because of abundant resources. I believe her work can change their minds.

For University Students
The following is three pieces of advice from Anni:

  1. Internships are good opportunities to see the difference between real industry and academia. It might be more challenging and you can get a practical experience.
  2. Management classes are also very useful because learning how to plan or organize things will help you some way in your life.
  3. In field works, listen from not only managers, but also all the people who you are involved with. Don’t judge people based on their education level. Everyone has some history or experience that you can learn from. Learn from everyone and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Currently, I am studying chemical engineering and belong to a laboratory where we are designing both industrial process systems and social systems, such as plastic recycling systems. So her experience was very interesting and motivated me. I’ll keep in mind her advice: Learn from everyone. Actually, I learned a lot from you Anni, thank you for the great story!