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Solving Waste and Poverty at Once

Solving Waste and Poverty at Once

Solving Waste and Poverty at Once

AwN | Society for many years has produced abundant waste and yet at the same time treated people who process that waste as outcasts. Even my own family thinks I am a fool if I occasionally keep some "junk" rather than bagging and trashing. Of course they never really call me a fool, and it usually takes me several years to find time to extract the possibly functional motor, or copper wiring, etc but the concept is the same. So while producing and trashing waste has long been a sign of prosperity, being a good ecological citizen is usually something to either giggle, or sneer at. 

This is a brilliant program which mirrors a lot of my own ideas about how to fix society. The point is to turn dysfunctional or fringe members of society into productive members of society mostly by first getting out of their way, second making it normal, third making a temporary subsidy while it grows, and fourth creating a new legitimate industry based on ecological principle and work. This article is about how a city, Oliveira, in Brazil is turning run of the mill trash pickers into city employees that recycle society's waste. The "EcoCitizen" program is rapidly expanding and it drives down poverty, while allowing for better utilization of waste streams....

In Brazil, A City’s Waste Pickers, Find Hope in a Pioneering Program

 

Yale 360 | Oliveira is one of more than 200,000 independent catadores, or waste pickers, in Brazil, a country that now registers “waste picker” as an official occupation. Since joining the EcoCitizen cooperative in February, she works three four-hour shifts per day at the government-sponsored warehouse, dropping off and picking up her five girls from school during breaks. “I like to work alone,” says Oliveira on a break near her workstation. “For me, it’s faster.”

Curitiba, a city of 1.9 million with a tradition of progressive environmental and social policies, is leading the way globally in efforts to improve working conditions and social acceptance for the people who recycle society’s waste. The city’s rapidly developing EcoCitizen program receives and processes recyclable materials at 19 different warehouses, where more than 600 members separate paper, plastics, glass, aluminum, and other materials. Run by Curitiba’s Department of Environment, the EcoCitizen program eliminates waste pickers’ need for sometimes-unscrupulous recycling middlemen, raises salaries, greatly improves working conditions, and leads to a cleaner city, advocates and officials say. 

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Image: Jakarta slumlife71" by Jonathan McIntosh - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons

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