Igor Utsumi

Igor Utsumi

Staff Writer
The Brazil Business


Solid Waste Policy in Brazil

Igor Utsumi

Igor Utsumi

Staff Writer
The Brazil Business


The Brazilian National Plan to deal with solid waste focuses on sustainable measures. This article will cover the main aspects of this policy, highlighting its benefits, and what still need to be changed.

The last wide research in Brazil on the management of garbage was made in 2008 by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, better known for the acronym IBGE. Although changes were made after the launch of the National Policy of Solid Waste in 2010, the situation is still unsatisfactory.

Solid Waste Destination

According to IBGE, 99.96% of the Brazilian municipalities, somehow, had a waste management plan in 2008, but more than half dispose their junk in open areas without proper precautions. These areas are known as lixões.

Also, less than 12% of the cities in Brazil have establishments that sort recyclable litter from organic waste. Composting of organic waste is even rarer: only 0.61% of all Brazilian municipalities have a place to implement this practice.

Main Points Of The Brazilian Solid Waste Policy

The policy that was launched in 2010 seeks to bring various improvements to Brazil’s management of solid waste. The division of responsibilities between consumers, sellers, distributors, importers, manufacturers, and government is one of the main achievements.

Other important points are:

  • Reverse logistics, one of the most controversial. All sectors believe it is crucial to collect used products and materials that can be repurposed. The problem is that, they haven't come to an agreement on who should pay the bill.
  • Selective collection of litter and materials, or recycling, which is growing, but needs to be widely expanded.
  • Information System about solid waste management, known as SINIR, serves as a database for this subject.
  • Other concrete goals to make the Brazilian management of solid waste better.

The “Reverse Logistics” Issue

Since 2011, a commission formed by the federal government has the objective to implement a policy for the return of used packaging to industries and companies, in order to reutilize them in new manufacturing processes.

The commission is composed of the Ministries of Environment, Health, Agriculture, and Industry. Other subgroups are responsible for different chains in the reverse logistics process, divided into five main categories:

  • Disposal of medications
  • Disposal of lubricants and its residuals
  • Disposal of lamps
  • Disposal of electronics
  • Disposal of packagings in general

Each group is responsible for creating goals and action plans in order to establish an efficient program. But, as previously stated, this is probably the most controversial among the Brazilian solid waste policies.

As any other process in the value chain, this return would imply costs. There is a big discussion about who should pay the bill. Basically, industries claim that this extra cost would be passed on to the retailers, which means that the consumers will end up paying more for the products.

Recycling in Brazil

The selective collection in Brazil generates more than BRL 12 billion per year, but this amount could be way bigger. The federal government estimates that around BRL 8 billion are potentially lost, since a significant amount is incorrectly disposed.

The Ministry of Environment has defined a color code to aid the garbage collection:

  • Blue indicates paper bins
  • Green indicates glass bins
  • Yellow indicates metal bins
  • Red indicates plastic bins
  • Brown indicates organic bins

One of the highlights in the Brazilian recycling chain is aluminum collection. It is very usual to see catadores, people that collect garbage for recycling, going after soda and beer cans in beaches and streets.

Brazil currently recycles around 90% of all aluminum disposed. The country is also a leader when recycling Agrochemicals: around 80% of all the packages are recycled.

The number of Brazilians with access to selective collection, though, is not so exciting. According to IBGE, only 22 million people have access to recycling programs in the country. This amount does not represent more than 18% of the entire population.