Good Practice Experiences with Selective Waste Collection in Brazil

Posted on: December 1st, 2011 by and

“Organised recycling programmes provide an opportunity to enhance public environmental awareness with the recyclers performing the role of environmental agents”

– Jutta Gutberlet, PSWM Project Director.


Londrina is a city located in the state of Paraná, in the south of Brazil. In 2001, the city implemented a selective waste collection program. Reciclando Vidas (Recycling Lives) has since grown to be a benchmark program for selective waste collection in Brazil. Today, it serves 90% of the city’s population of 500,000. The following statistics highlight the effectiveness of the program:

  • 75% adherence rate of the population
  • In 2010, 26.6% of household waste being recovered.

Of this number, only 4% of the collected material was not considered recyclable, whereas in other communities this number is closer to 50%.

Reciclando Vidas is run through door-to door collection, employing approximately 500 catadores (informal recyclers). This collection system has been beneficial in increasing the rates of selective waste collection. In 2011 the recyclers were paid 64.00 R$ (40.29 US$) by the government per ton of recycled material, in addition to a monthly amount of 33,000.00 R$ (20,772 US$) for the service of selective collection, prolonging the life of the landfill.

  • In March 2010 the program was collecting 156,927 kg/month of material from 60,000 households.
  • By July 2010 had expanded to collecting 274,411 kg/month of material from 71,648 households.

As part of the PSWM project, delegates from the local government as well as recyclers were given the opportunity to experience Londrina’s selective waste collection system. From their time there, participants noted the following things:

  • A fair payment system for recyclers
  • A high level of local government commitment with the selective collection system
  • A high level of feasibility of the collection system
  • A contractual relationship between government and recyclers
  • Communication within the community
  • Transparency and trust between collectors and government
  • High self esteem of recyclers

A few difficulties were noted as well, mostly highlighting issues such as precarious working environments, logistical problems when dealing with the recycling industry, and issues with interest of the recyclers.

Through the success of Londrina’s Reciclando Vidas we see the positive outcomes that can arise from implementing a waste collection program. It also demonstrates the need for an effective and collaborative policy program between government, recyclers and community.


Diadema is a city located in the outskirts of São Paulo, Brazil. It is characterized by low to middle-class residents, many of whom live in informal housing and are threatened by poverty, food insecurity and unemployment.

The Vida Limpa (Clean Life) recycling program was launched in 2004. Within four years, the city developed six collection depots and established a remuneration system offering 38R$ (24 US$) to recyclers per ton of recyclable material collected, the same amount paid to deposit the waste at the landfill. This figure translates into an average income of 380R$ (239 US$) per month. Yet, the income is still below of what would be a decent salary and many of the others services the recyclers provide are still not yet recognized.

While in many regards the recycling program has been successful, recyclers in Diadema are vulnerable for many reasons. One of the causes is that they are dependent on unstable markets. In addition, fluctuating levels of government support also influence the health of this program.

The project has undergone expansion since its creation and as of 2011, accepts beside household waste also discarded wood and cooking oils. Efforts are also being made to expand the pilot project in place for composting and community gardens.

*This blog is based on the article: Gutberlet, Jutta (2011). Waste to Energy, Wasting Resources and Livelihoods. Integrated Waste Management – Volume I, Sunil Kumar (Ed.), ISBN: 978-953-307-469-6, InTech.

The Community Based Research Lab

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