Turning Trash Into Cash: How a Brazilian Recycling Coop is Now Planning to Produce Bleach

A recycled bottle made at a coop can soon be filled with their own bleach brand

Gilson Jorge

Few minutes after hold the microphone for speaking to her coworkers and also some political guests, the president of the cooperative of ecological agents of Canabrava (Caec), a neighborhood of Salvador, Bahia, started feeling her voice failing and the tears rolled down on her face.

It was for the be barely an informal meeting for celebrate the success of the cooperative that unites 240 recycling workers of trash of the city, seven years after the beginning of its operations, and the recent decision of begining to manufacture chlorine bleach.

Sonia dos Santos, that during years maintained the family with the remainders of food collected in a huge dump, disputing space and sustenances with vultures and mice, insisted about speaking of her life for the young colleagues, that found an organized coop, with its own land, headquarters built and equipment donated by the European Union and Brazilian petroleum´s giant Petrobras.

Some of that people used to do the collection of trash for recycling by absolute need, in a state that have over 2 millions of people under the line of the poverty, and passed for dramatic experiences while gathering papers, plastic and food of the trash brought of the class middle houses and of the rich ones of Salvador. 

Hidden among tons of trash, some workers lost the life upon being knocked down by trucks and tractors that shredded the residues and what more they find ahead.  “We were not seen as human beings”, declared Sonia while remembered the times in that she felt people refusing to shake her hands. 

 An epoch in that she used to wake up by 4 am and passed all day long in the trash and, upon returning home, many times got irritated when her famished sons asked for food.  Something that simply was not available.

With the help of a non-governmental organization, that obtained resources next to the European Union, the Caec began transforming trash in cash in 2004.  At present,the cooperative has a monthly prescription of around R$ 300 thousand with the sale of bars of soap, boxes of paper and bottles pead made with stuff recycled.  Enough for generate a regular income for them cooperated and still maintain an administrative structure. 

The near pace of the Caec should be the output of bleach. In order to have its own brand and increase the monthly invoicing, to cooperative only needs to buy the raw material, sodium hypochlorite, since they already produces the plastic bottles for the bleach and the cardboard boxes for unite those bottles. 

The history of the trash workers earned highlight in all Brazil when the then president Lula received, in 2006, a group of trash workers in the Palácio do Planalto and announced that the government would offer financing for the co-ops.  By the first time in the history, citizen that live of the recycling of trash were received by the maximum authority of the country.

The subject of the recycling is a hot issue in this moment in Brazil.  In the next month, the Brazilian cities must adapt themselves upon recently created National Plan of Solid Residues, that foresees the reduction of this trash and the recuperation of the garbage dumps.  Salvador, headquarters of the Caec, produces 2.5 thousand tons of trash daily.  And the recycling in the city for the time is limited to 700 tons by month.

About Gilson Jorge

Fã de Tom Waits, Chico Buarque e Woody Allen, que adora contar histórias do cotidiano
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