Brazil seeks a plan to deal with its increasing e-waste

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Flag It!, Sao Paulo, Brazil

The Brazilian government has promised to deliver a national plan to build a reverse logistics strategy for the country’s e-waste recycling by the end of the year. Since early June, the Ministry of Environment has analysed the four proposals for sectoral agreement to give a correct destination of 1 million tons of this type of waste produced each year, a number that only increases with the rapid growth of domestic consumption in recent decades.

Today, Brazil has 265.5 million mobile phones, an amount that places the country only behind China, India and the United States. These devices, however, are part of a category of electronics that already have an efficient system of recycling in the country – along with computer items and integrates called Green Line. “This category is the one that makes a profit. It is no coincidence that it is the least that we receive here”, said Alex Pereira, who coordinates Coopermiti, a cooperative of recyclers in Sao Paulo, the city which produces the most E-waste in Brazil.

With 25 cooperative members who receive an average of R$ 750 (US$ 330) per month, the company processes only a third of its capacity every month. “There is little knowledge of our work and a culture in Brazil of not disposing electronics. People here prefer to pass along or keep at homedamaged and obsolete equipments,” explained Pereira.

Besides Coopermiti, São Paulo has 22 other fixed points of electronics collection.. The lack of specific legislation, however, inhibits the creation of new spots and improvements in the collection system and processing of old appliances. “Recycling a cell phone requires a very different process than other categories, such as refrigerators, televisions and appliances. You need to create a law that dictates how each will be collected and disposed of the market”, explained the lawyer Ana Luci Grizzi, an expert in environmental law. “There is the government’s goal that industries have to collect at least 17% of their products placed on the market every year.”

André Saraiva, director of the Brazilian Association of Electrical and Electronics Industry (Abinee), who participated in the discussions for the sectoral agreement, said there were still points to be discussed, such as the requirement of importing companies to offer a plan for disposal of the products they place on the market and which are the specific responsibilities of each manufacturer, distributor and retailer. “For large appliances such as freezers and air conditioners, we study ways to help the stores to receive the old equipment as a replacement when they purchase new products”, said Saraiva.

While these plans are discussed, however, the production of electronic waste in the country only increases, driven by government incentives to expand consumption (http://goo.gl/oUnv1H). Between 2011 and 2016, this amount should increase from 917,000 tons to 1.37 million tons, which puts the country among the world’s top producers (http://goo.gl/9RfGly). It is estimated that each Brazilian produce a pound of this type of waste per year (http://goo.gl/e5mmX9). The average is low compared with countries like the United States (2 kg per capita). But with a population of nearly 200 million and continued growth, the country is moving towards becoming a leader