Recycling in Brazil

Recycling in Brazil

We feel incredibly lucky to have a lifestyle that is centered around nature conservation, but you don’t have to work in conservation to make a difference. Conservation Corner is a series where I highlight the many ways people around the world are making an effort to tread a little lighter on our planet.

Last month we heard about Recycling in Germany and today Stephen from The Head of the Heard writes about recycling in Brazil (specifically in the city of Curitiba). Stephen blogs about life as an expat in Curitiba as well as the joys and challenges of raising a bilingual child. I love how much thought and energy Stephen puts into his son’s language acquisition, especially as his son is still young so he doesn’t always see the rewards of his efforts right away. 

I plan to highlight one story a month and I hope to make this a space where people who walk with light footsteps meet. Feel free to contact me if you are interested in contributing to this series or stop by the Conservation Corner page for a list of upcoming posts.

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Recycling in Curitiba

A long time ago, in a city (probably) far, far away…

Curitiba Bus

The Home of the world’s first bendy bus. Photo credit: Augusto Janiski Junior – CC-BY-2.0

A city decided it wanted to be a model for future development.  This included implementing extensive bus lanes, developing the world’s first bi-articulated bus (bendy bus) and designing a comprehensive recycling system that would not only recycle up to 80% of the city’s rubbish, but also provide an income for the city’s poorest people and result in a cleaner city.

Of course, it is easier said than done and many cities have had similar laudable aims but there has always been some problem in implementation.  Here in Curitiba, the capital of Paraná state in the south of Brazil, they decided to go for the kids.

All the schools were co-opted into educating their students about the need for recycling and how to do it.  There were colourful adverts, educational films that included the Familia Folha (The Leaf Family) and the catchy slogan of Lixo que não é lixo (Rubbish that isn’t rubbish) that is still found all around the city today.

And the situation today is that in most buildings there are 4 different bins.  One is for organic material, another is for metal, one for paper and then another one for everything else.  Some of the more progressive buildings have extra bins for glass, batteries and many other types of rubbish.  The buildings are important because most people in Curitiba live in high rise blocks and so all of the rubbish is collected by the building.  It is true that not everybody follows the system, and this is only partly because sometimes you don’t know what material is in the product you want to throw away.

Curitiba Bin

Familia Folha on a Bin.  Photo credit: Gustavo Procat – CC-BY-2.0

And so this is where the project came up with another innovative idea.  In many places in the developing world you see the local poor working and living around city dumps, scouring the area for material that they can rescue and sell on.

In Curitiba, the city government decided to offer incentives for the poor to do the same, but not on the dumps.  Instead they go around the neighbourhoods and find recyclable material at source.  This material is then traded at collection points with 4kg of waste garnering 1 kg of locally produced fresh food.

It isn’t a perfect system, and in my ideal world there are far better ways of managing the waste we produce.  However, we don’t live in the perfect world here in Brazil and the programme does seem to have had some excellent results and people don’t have to go and live and work in the city dumps.–9Ws

The Head of the Heard:

Stephen Green - Head of the HeardStephen Greene is from the UK and has lived in Poland, Taiwan and now Brazil.  He is an English teacher, teacher trainer and materials developer.  He writes about his experiences bringing up a bilingual family as well as life in general in Curitiba and Brazil.  You can find his blog at Head of the Heard, follow him on Twitter @hoftheh or like his Facebook page


Thank you for this Stephen, I love hearing about environmental initiatives in different places and trading waste for fresh food is truly innovative!

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3 Responses to “Recycling in Brazil”

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  1. I think recycling is so important and being aware of the waste one produces at home is a good starting point. I really like this series of post… and I love that slogan – Rubbish that isn’t rubbish!

  2. I love that they are looking for innovative ways to get people to recycle!

  3. Gustavo Procat says:

    Nice! Thanks for the credit of the photo! 😉