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Brazil is one of the world leaders in recycling.

In plastic bottles, for example, only Japan recycles more than Brazil.

In aluminium, too, Brazil is out in front. Brazilians reuse 96.5 percent of all cans sold, a number far superior to Europe’s 62 percent or the United States’s 54 percent.

In solid plastics, Brazil is the fourth largest recycler in the world and in glass bottles it is fifth. In steel cans, it is third behind Belgium and Sweden.

Unfortunately, much of that recycling is not done by people picking through rubbish. It is not always carried out on an industrial scale and house to house collection is not common.

There are a few companies trying to change that. Coelce, the power company in Fortaleza, is one of them. There, more than 300,000 people hand over paper, glass, cooking oil and a host of other products in return for money off their electricity bill.

The model is such a success that Light, the Rio de Janeiro power utility, is aiming to reproduce it, starting in the city’s favelas, as I explain here in a recent Financial Times story.

Some 68 of Rio’s close to 1000 favelas have been pacified in recent years and Light’s project is part of that process that attempts to bring a certain normality to these areas.  As I write in the story:

A pilot progam run by Rio’s electricity company Light started last week in the Santa Marta favela. Police entered the favela at the end of 2008 and expelled the armed drug traffickers who controlled the area. The 6,000 residents now live in relative peace under the command of community police officers.

“You don’t see drugs and guns any more but you do see lots of rubbish,” said Fernanda Mayrink, Light’s community outreach officer.

“This project encourages recycling within the company’s concession area and at the same time contributes to sustainable development and the consumer’s pocket. Light wins, the customer wins (and) the environment wins.”

Good luck to them. More such projects would result in more win-win situations.



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