Recycling Waste to Boost Incomes and Opportunities
Brazil, a world leader in waste recycling and green technologies, has pioneered the recycling of plastic bottles, aluminium, steel cans, solid plastic waste and glass. And now energy companies in Brazil have created credit schemes that encourage waste recycling while giving people real economic benefits in return for doing the right thing for the environment. The first scheme went so well that it quickly inspired others to replicate its programme in other poor communities.
Coelce is a power company in Ceará State in northeastern Brazil. The company is engaged primarily in the distribution of electrical power for industrial, rural, commercial and residential consumption. In 2007, it set up Ecoelce, a programme allowing people to recycle waste in return for credits towards their electricity bills. The success of the programme led to an award from the United Nations.
The programme works like this: people bring the waste to a central collection place, a blue and red building with clear and bright branding to make it easy to find. In turn, they receive credits on a blue electronic card – looking like a credit card – carrying a picture of a child and arrows in the familiar international recycling circle.
These credits are then used to calculate the amount of discount that they should receive on their energy bill. The scheme is flexible, and people can also use the credits for food or to pay rent. In 2008, after its first year, the scheme had expanded to 59 communities collecting 4,522 tonnes of recyclable waste and earning 622,000 reais (US$349,438) in credits for 102,000 people. People were receiving an average of 5 to 6 reais (US$2.80 to US$3.37) every month towards their energy bills. A clear success leading to an expansion of the scheme.
Now in Ceará’s state capital, Fortaleza – population 3.5 million – there are more than 300,000 people recycling a wide range of materials, from paper, glass, plastics and metals to cooking oil to get electricity discounts, according to the Financial Times. In Vietnam, the NGO Anh Duong or “Sun Ray” shows schoolchildren how to collect plastic waste to sell for recycling. In return, their schools receive improvements and the students can win scholarships. It is estimated that rural Vietnam is littered with 100 million tonnes of waste every year. Much of it is not picked up.
The project is operating in 17 communities in the Long My and Phung Hiep districts in southern VietNam, mobilizing children from primary and secondary schools. School children wearing their uniforms fan out in groups and collect the plastic waste. The money made from selling the plastic waste is being used to improve school facilities and fund scholarships for poor children.
In 2010, the project reported that 10,484 kilograms of plastic waste were collected by 26,015 pupils. This provided for 16 scholarships for school children.
The Anh Duong NGO was set up by a group of social workers with the goal of community development. They target the poorest, bringing together the entire community, and seek out “low cost and sustainable actions”. The NGO has a mix of specialties, from agriculture to aquaculture, health, microfinance and social work. – (November 2011)
Global energy demand is forecast to grow by 30 per cent from 2010 to 2035. Sustainably grown biomass could produce four times the world’s global electricity needs by 2050. Nearly 40 countries have enough geothermal energy potential to meet a significant proportion of their electricity needs. Wind energy could provide 9 per cent of the world’s electricity needs by 2030.
• coelce.com.br/default.aspx • light.com.br/web/tehome.asp • anhduonghg.org/en
Images: Wendren Setzer (thewrendesign.com).
South Africa’s Wren Design is an online store for chic recycled bags, purses and accessories (thewrendesign.com).