Waste Challenges in Brazil

by Annibeth Jacob, Brazil, ELP 2014
Written on July 20, 2014.

Brazil is a large developing country, with about 190 million people, and as a result, has many environmental issues not yet addressed. One of the main environmental concerns is the proper management of waste in the country, which is not well organized or regulated.

The use of open dumps that do not follow standards for prevention of soil and underground water contamination should be ending in Brazil by August 2014, as enforced by the legislation created as a result of the National Policy of Waste in 2010. However, the objective to eradicate the improper disposal sites is still very far from being achieved. The National Plan of Waste says that the country still has 2,906 open dumps in about 2,810 cities and 1,310 of landfills in about 1,254 cities. More than half of the Brazilian cities do not enforce proper waste disposal and ensure that it ends up in the right destination. In other words, about 75,000 tons of solid waste are delivered to open dumps or landfills every day.

Image iconannibeth-1-300x222_2.png Open dumps

Image iconAnnibeth-2-300x242_2.png Landfills

I believe that the culture is also an issue, since the citizens do not have any responsibility for its wastes, and don’t pay for its destination. According to IPEA’s (Institute of Economic Research) research published in 2012, the consumer’s participation is very important for the reduction of waste generation. As an example, some countries have waste fees based on the amount generated by households. These fees make visible the cost for waste disposal, and as a result impacts society’s behavior directly.

Besides the elimination of improper waste disposal, the law also enforces the implementation of a collection system for recycling materials. This is a big challenge since only 58.6% of the cities reported that they have some form of “initiatives” related to a recycle separation system.
Brazil is considered by ABRALPE (Brazilian Association of Public Cleaning and Waste) a good recycler for the total amount recycled with certain materials like aluminum, paper, plastic and glass. In 2011, the country hit a record of recycling 98.3% of aluminum cans.

There are many issues that the country needs to be addressed regarding waste management but, as a Brazilian, I am very positive about it and I really hope that new requirements will help engage and educate cities, government and people. As an example of positive change, the National Policy of Waste includes the responsibility not only for the producer, retailer and government, but also for the consumer that has an important role in this matter, in relation to households waste generation.