Brazil: Fighting for more recycling with the Electronic Waste Manifesto

Photo by marcbraz on Flickr

Photo by marcbraz on Flickr

Worldwide waste management is a difficult task for many countries, regardless of whether they are developed or developing nations. In Brazil, only about 10% of cities have a proper strategy to deal with recyclable waste, according to André Trigueiro, a journalist, professor and commentator on CBN Radio Network.

In recent weeks, the National Policy on Solid Residuals proposed in the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies has sparked discussion amongst Brazilian bloggers solely because of an amendment to its 33rd article, dealing with the regulation of reverse logistics (take-back) and mandatory recycling of special waste, no longer considering electronic equipment as such. Many people think this is due to certain pressure from recycling industries, given the high cost of dealing with electronic waste.

Reacting to the adaptation of the bill, the Coletivo Lixo Eletrônico (Electronic Waste Group) created the Electronic Waste Manifesto [pt] to share some insights about what the inclusion of electronic waste in this national policy to control solid residuals would mean for the Brazilian population and its current lifestyle. Here’s an extract from the Manifesto:

No Brasil, temos uma oportunidade hoje que está sendo desperdiçada. Tramita na Câmara dos Deputados o Projeto de Lei da Política Nacional dos Resíduos Sólidos (PL 203/91). É imperativo que a Política Nacional de Resíduos Sólidos contemple os equipamentos eletro-eletrônicos e que estes sejam enquadrados como produtos especiais de logística reversa e reciclagem obrigatória. Os eletro-eletrônicos estarão cada vez mais presentes na nossa vida, trazendo benefícios na mesma velocidade em que produzem mais lixo com o qual ainda não lidamos corretamente. Regulamentar sua destinação é condição urgente e necessária para que possamos continuar a nos beneficiar dos avanços da tecnologia de maneira sustentável, sem pagar um alto preço ambiental e à saúde de nossa população.

In Brazil, we have an opportunity that is being literally wasted. A bill regarding a National Policy on Solid Residuals (PL 203/91) is being discussed in Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies. It is imperative that such policy considers electronic equipment and that it is framed as a special product for mandatory recycling and take-back. Electronics often become part of our lives, bringing benefits at the same rate that they become waste at a pace we cannot currently deal with. Regulating and specifying the destination of these electronics is an urgent and necessary condition for us to keep on benefiting from technological advances in a sustainable fashion, without the health of the population and the environment paying an even higher price.

The full text of the translated Manifesto can be found on my personal blog.

During an interview [pt] on the Primeira Mão blog (First Handed), Felipe Andueza, from the Electronic Waste blog, one of those responsible for the Manifesto, when asked how Brazil deals with electronic waste, replies:

Na esfera federal, há somente a Lei de Crimes Ambientais, que institui a responsabilidade até a deposição adequada de todos os produtos potencialmente contaminantes por seus fabricantes e algumas Resoluções CONAMA sobre pilhas e baterias. […] Boa parte deve parar no lixo doméstico, principalmente o que não pode ser doado, reaproveitado e etc. Estima-se que mais ou menos 1% do lixo eletrônico produzido no Brasil seja reciclado, somente.

On a national scale, there is only the Law for Environmental Crimes to establish accountability over potentially toxic products until they are properly disposed of, and there are some resolutions about batteries from the National Environment Committee. […] A large part of this type of material ends up in domestic landfills, especially that which cannot be donated or reused. It is estimated that only about 1% of all Brazil’s electronic waste is currently recycled.

As sustainability demands recycling grows faster, the amendments to the bill take Brazil in a direction that is incompatible with the country’s population and economic growth. It is also important to note that, for many people, reverse logistics of electronics would be an interesting way of supporting digital inclusion projects by taking advantage of electronics that are still in good condition.

To seek support for this manifesto, an online petition has been created and it is slowly gaining support through the Brazilian Internet. It is necessary to spread the word more quickly, as the law may be passed with the environmentally unfriendly amendment, but the mainstream media has not picked up the issue so far.


Photo by Flickr user Galeria de Milton Jung CBNSP

In a comment on the Electronic Waste Manifesto blog, Walfrido Assunção remembers a time when, similarly, tires were left behind in the natural environment, such as in rivers, without proper attention from environmentalists and the population; bringing [pt] an interesting point to the comment box, he says:

[…] Quem de nós não tem no porão, na garagem ou numa prateleira qualquer um televisor ou computador obsoleto “esquecido”? Quem de nós não tem um (ou vários) telefone celular obsoleto em uma gaveta qualquer? Esses eletro-eletrônicos hoje que são “parte da paisagem ou da decoração”, no futuro não muito distante se tornarão também num preocupante passivo.

[…] Among us who doesn't have an obsolete TV or computer left in a basement, garage or on a shelf? Who doesn't have one (or many) obsolete mobile phone(s) in a drawer? Those electronics that are currently “part of the decoration or the home design” will become a worrying liability in the near future.

Karine Estevam also reflects [pt] on the Manifesto's blog post, arguing that:

Achei maravilhosa esta iniciativa de fazer o Manifesto, afinal precisamos participar incisivamente do processo de formação das Politas Publicas Ambientais.
O lixo é uma questão muito seria e extramamente relevante, principalmente este tipo de lixo já que não se tem ideia do período de decomposição e por isso deve-se buscar alternativas para o seu descarte.
Vou assinar com todo prazer!

I think the initiative to create the Manifesto is wonderful, after all we need to participate actively in the process of shaping public policy regarding the environment.
Waste is a serious and extremely relevant matter; especially this type of material, as we have no idea about its decomposition rate, and that is why we need to find alternative means for its disposal.
I will happily sign it!

Celedo gave his thoughts on the subject with a strong point of view, highlightng [pt]:

O mundo está uma verdadeira imundície!
O lixo diário e por vezes lixo por segundo (nova medida de lixo/tempo) é produzido pelo consumismo exacerbado da humanidade… espero que não sejamos omissos neste caso de importância mundial!

This world is absolutely filthy right now!
The daily waste, and in many cases the waste production per second (a new rate for waste growth), is a result of humanity’s exacerbated consumerism… I hope we’re not going to be silent in the face of a matter of global importance such as this!

In conclusion, thinking of means of managing the residuals of the electronics industry is part of proposing and creating a sustainable lifestyle and system of recycling for electronic goods. Both cyberactivism and online participation raise awareness of the public's needs that are currently being undermined in the industry's economic interests.

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