Implementation of recycling in a coastal city using technological innovations, with the collaboration of environmental leaders.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, I moved to a city near the beach, named Ubatuba, which is built around a protected rainforest area. It's a low-income city, with a population of 200 thousand people with its economy based on tourism and, for the last few years, has been growing fast without urban planning, fostered by real estate speculation. This city encloses more than one hundred beaches, throughout 100 kilometres of coast and is surrounded by acres of almost untouched nature, with slots of urban gatherings.
Though life was prettier by the shore, we noticed some inadequacies regarding the city infrastructure that felt so elemental we could not ignore. One of them was the local recycling policy.
The discomfort regarding recycling, or rather, the lack of it, started long before we thought about this project. Some people at our beach, Praia Dura, were already wondering about the destination of the garbage, among them, my aunt Laura. In 2018, she made a campaign, within our family, to mobilize us about the cause. At the time, the idea was not forward.
Due to remote classes, I was able to spend the second half of 2020 at my grandparents beach house in Ubatuba. There, I participated in a distance learning project on recycling. As I was not at my house, I thought that there would not be much to help. Until I discovered that we didn't do recycling in Ubatuba.
To better understand the situation, I contacted my aunt. I discovered that this problem was bigger than I thought. My family was not the only one that did not recycle, no one at Praia Dura did it. To make matters worse, this was not a problem just on our beach. Moving from São Paulo, the biggest city in Brazil, we believed that just by sorting out the recyclable waste inside our houses there would be a proper destination by the municipality.
However, we realized that official authorities were not committed to proper waste management, and all the work in place was done by individual initiatives or occasional task forces. Shocked by the information, we decided to create a petition to pressure the public agency. Even so, we knew that we could not depend on an answer from the city, because in the meantime, we continued to generate waste and dispose of it incorrectly.
Talking to my grandfather, I managed to get in touch with the other people who have a home at our beach. Fortunately, we realized that this was not just our concern. Thus, we created a working group, with those interested in the topic. We found that many of them had already tried to do something on their own, but were unsuccessful.
We looked for a recycling initiative in Ubatuba. Out one of these initiatives, arose one NGOs called “Coco e Cia''. It was built by community leaders who gathered some people to collect the waste from defined recycling bins, sort, store and sell this waste to reprocessing companies.
“Coco e Cia” handles not only the recycling cycle but also promotes environmental educational and social support for the local community. Apart from very insalubrious working conditions, they manage to reduce the quantities of solid waste deposited in landfills close to this almost original rainforest protected area.
We realised this company would be our main partner to implement recycling in the region we are living in. Therefore, we influenced Praia Dura’s community association to hire “Coco e Cia” to collect and recycle the recyclable waste produced in our beach community.
Starting from that, we needed to advise people to start sorting the trash by material and create a strategy to inform and engage locals into taking the selected material to a defined location, where the recycling waste would be collected by the NGO truck.
After some networking and virtual reunions with local leaders, we started setting up a project to educate, collect and recycle the waste from our region. In this project, we developed a website to help spread the word and to explain for the lays in detail the importance of recycling and how to be a part of it. At the same time, we delivered to every household a colourful sticker to be attached to the recycling bin with a QR code that leads to our website.
Using these simple tools, we manage to achieve a large number of people once the information is available at any time, and we can update the information as needed. Whether by uploading videos, giving feedback for the users, local news, or any new changes in the recycling process.
With that, we managed to promote this project and boost recycling, in an area where previous recycling initiatives were unsuccessful because relied on the continuous effort of one or two individuals. Despite the pandemic, which made it impossible for us to talk in person and teach people how to recycle properly, these technological tools we created seem very successful.
Through our website, videos and social media, we expect to reach a large number of people, and to expand our project to as many neighbours as possible in Ubatuba, always with the Coco e Cia partnership. This NGO is based on one of the most vulnerable areas of this municipality, has diversity and inclusion policies for hiring the staff and is committed to environmental education at public schools. We believe they are the greenway out from social frailties and urban hazards.
If we have the chance to reinforce our project with financial and advising support from The Post-COVID-19 City Direct-Action Fellowships, we expect to fund this NGO to build a proper warehouse and to buy materials or redesign processes to increase safety for the staff and reduce the insalubrity of working conditions.
Who will take these actions?
Our project has two steps. The first one requires the collaboration of the following stakeholders:
1. Owners of houses of this community, along with their family, guests and tenants. They all will take part in the recycling system by sorting the waste of their houses on a daily basis.
2. Coco e Cia NGO, who will collect the waste and transfer it to their warehouse.
Besides that, in the future, we expect to involve local authorities in our project, by making it a structured public policy for adequate solid waste management.
What are the projected costs?
The costs for implementation of the recycling sorting and collection have already been covered by local supporters. Most of the actions were free and developed by us using social media and technology available online.
However, the warehouse where the material is stored and where the Coco e Cia staff works needs urgent renovation. We need funding for the construction and to increase safety for the workers. For further information, I recommend visiting this website, where there is a video showing exactly how risky are the working conditions:http://informarubatuba.com.br/cooperativa-reciclagem-ubatuba
2020: Development of the website, reunion with local leaders, stablishment of working process
January: Construction of the recycling cabin; annoucement of the project to all households of Praia Dura beach;
February: With the extrafunding: Development of a construction project for the warehouse
March-May: Construction of the warehouse
June: With better working conditions, we will increase de area of reach for the recycling project to other regions of the municipality.
About the author(s)
Marina: I am a student, currently in the second year of high school and I have always been very curious and interested in sustainability. Throughout my school life, I was part of various students organizations, such as the feminist group and I've always taken part in social work. Nowadays I am 16 and have been a vegetarian for a year, due to socio-environmental issues.
I am also a member of CISV, an NGO that promotes international friendship through empathy and inclusion activities. Recently we, the CISV group, were involved with another NGO called Pimp My Carroça (a movement that works to improve the conditions of recyclable material collectors) to find ways to boost recycling. At the time, I was living near the beach, while the others were in São Paulo, so I thought I couldn't do anything. However, I discovered we didn't have a selective collection in this city. So I decided to talk to my aunt Laura and do something about it.
Laura: I am a public health specialist, specializing in infectious disease and very used to working in adverse regions. Also have been working with improvement projects related to public health systems, always in very challenging situations with limited resources. It's been a joy to work with my niece on this project for a city which my family is very fond of and where I have spent a good part of my life.
Feb 1, 2021
VERY SUSTAINABLE INITIATIVE ONCE IT IS FOCUSED NOT ONLY ON THE ENVIRONMENT, BUT ALSO FOSTERS SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT, WOMEN SUPPORT AND PUBLIC EDUCATION.