The challenge of Organic Waste in Brazilian Cities, recycling, and the demand for social sustainable technologies to mitigate the impacts of (in)Conscious Consumption on the Environment.
Prof. Dr. Jose Luiz Esteves, DBA. Visiting Professor, Postdoctoral Researcher at PPAD at PUC-PR, Brazil; CEO Exponentialis Platform for Transformative Learning and Education, Brazilian Climate Leader (*)
May 17th, and we celebrate World Recycling Day.
The World Bank (WB, 2018) conducted a study and identified that cities were responsible for generating 2.01 billion tons of garbage in the world. Despite the relevance of the set of SDGs / SDGs, whose purpose is to interact with each other, more or less directly, in its various axes, certainly the issue of waste products in the world is frightening, and working to mitigate its causes it takes on one of the most relevant roles - along with the climate issue, over this and the coming decades.
If we take into account the slightly more accelerated growth of the population and the almost irrelevant public management of urbanization, it is projected a growth that may represent an additional 70% of the volume of solid waste production for the next 30 years, reaching an unimaginable 3.4 billion tons production of GARBAGE in 2050.
São Paulo, for example, recycles only about 6-7% of the total waste produced. And imagine: It is almost twice the national average, which reached the period of 2019/20 at approximately 4%! And according to ABRELPE/ Brazilian Association of Public Cleaning and Special Waste Companies at the beginning of 2020, this percentage was only 3%. Every year in Brazil, around 80 million tons of garbage is generated, but only 4% are recycled. Recycling is one of the National Solid Waste Policy bottlenecks, which was completed a decade last year.
Among the Brazilian capitals, the City of Florianópolis (South of Brazil) was at the top in 2019 with 6% but it was the one that was better articulated - in terms of planning, in the race for "Zero Waste" due to the proportional investments planned by CONCAP until 2030.
There is no way to compare all data in absolute values because the production of garbage in Sao Paulo, for example, is MUCH greater than that of anywhere else. But imagine: The City of Belém (North of Brazil) is only 0.5% (half a percent)! See how the Brazilian capital cities position themselves, according to the information published by ABRELPE:
The past year of a pandemic changed the indicators and the amount of waste produced is almost certain to have increased: the Urban Cleaning Sustainability Index - ISLU, prepared by PwC Brasil in partnership with the National Union of Urban Cleaning Companies /SELURB (2019 ), analyzed the reality in 3313 municipalities in all states of the country, noting that 49.9% of them still send their waste to irregular and illegal deposits - or better known in Brazil as “dumps”.
And even worse: Impacts caused by landfills range from environmental contamination to damage to public health.
I recently wrote an article, published (in English) through WildHUB Community UK (accessible at https://wildhub.community/documents/the-issue-of-waste-disposal-in-brazilian-cities ), which articulated the issue of Urban Waste and its impacts so that we can take a more peaceful flight in the framework so discussed of "Sustainable Cities" or "Smart Cities".
Despite a giant effort - and paradoxical, in the sense of causing decentralization and advancing modernity in the provision of public services through more advanced governance within the scope of "Digital Transformation" and/or "Digital Governments", as Brazil second OECD report already has and considered one of the twenty (20) most “digital” governments in the world, where many people can point out advances and list a very significant amount of investments, which brings the theme of Smart Cities to a trend-topic of motivations for governments, at different levels, it is strange to imagine that any proposal that moves in the direction of intelligent governments can detach itself from the axis of reduction, better management and the disposal of their waste.
A very recent report (late April), published by the Brazilian newspaper O Globo (https://oglobo.globo.com/sociedade/um-so-planeta/uma-decada-apos-lei-maioria-das-cidades-brasileiras-still-uses-garbage-production-of-waste-grows-with-pandemic-24988904 ) dealt with this great problem and the challenge imposed by modernity, catapulted to even greater levels due to the Pandemic and the change in the routine from inhabitants in that period.
When I had the opportunity to carry out an international specialization in urban management and sustainable development (GUDS) at the Universidad Iberoamericana de Santo Domingo, promoted by UN-ECLAC and supported by UN-Habitat, MINURVI, World Bank, and Cooperazione Italiana, even in the early years 2000, we had the grateful satisfaction of acting practically in the Dominican Republic - at the invitation of the Presidency of the Republic and CONAU, at the same time that a Federal Law was changing the geopolitical constitution of the federal capital, transforming it into a set of new municipalities. And there we were already focusing on the strategic importance of urban waste management, especially to promote a more intelligent ordering of the “city” concerning its growth and development alternatives.
Now - twenty years later, and due to the presence of that same challenge, I feel encouraged to continue differently and I have interacted with a proposal that unites products and technology with a social impact - called trashBuddy © and which was approved as a project with potential for innovation by the Catalisa Program in 2021.
To a greater or lesser degree, with more or less quality, the recycling of noble waste (aluminum, glass, paper, plastic) has been advancing. Unfortunately, the same did not happen with organic waste.
So, we're still at work! The environment will celebrate our decision.
Long live recycling!