Brazil sets voluntary aluminum recycling record
SAO PAULO - The Brazilian Aluminum Association (ABAL) said this week the country set a world record in voluntary recycling in 2001 by reusing 85 percent of the aluminum cans on the Brazilian market.
\"The idea of recycling has changed drastically over the last decade in Brazil,\" Jose Roberto Giosa, coordinator of ABAL\'s recycling commission said in a news conference.
Traditionally recycling has been an activity performed only by Brazil\'s poor as a means to eke out a living in Latin America\'s largest economy of 170 million people.
But in recent years, other sectors of the economy have begun to see value in the shiny metal.
\"In 1992, 90 percent of the country\'s can recycling was carried out by poor independent trash pickers. Now retirees, mayors, bus drivers, schools, hotels and clubs are cashing in on recycling,\" he said.
Brazil recycled 119.5 million tonnes of aluminum in 2001, a 16 percent rise in volume from the 102.8 million recycled in 2000.
Japan held the 2000 world record for voluntary recycling after the East Asian nation reused 81 percent of its cans in circulation. It should announce 2001 figures in June, but given its slow annual growth in recycling, it is not expected to surpass Brazil, said Giosa.
Some countries in Europe, where federal law mandates recycling, have reached 90 percent recycling levels. But Brazil, Japan and most of the United States have voluntary programs and are some of the largest recyclers by tonnage.
The United States manufactured the first aluminum can in 1963 and today recycles 63 billion cans of the roughly 101 billion produced annually, making it the world\'s largest recycler by volume but leaving it well behind Japan by percentage, he said.
Brazil\'s aluminum can output has also grown twenty-fold over the last decade, from 500 million cans in 1990 to 10.3 billion in 2001, ABAL said. The country is also the world\'s No. 3 producer of bauxite, the mineral from which aluminum is refined, after Australia and Canada, No. 1 and No. 2 producers, respectively.
RECYCLING HELPS POOR
Community programs and state-of-the-art technology in Brazil have reduced the time from when the can is picked from the trash to when it is back in use - as a new can, an engine block or some other packaging - from 100 days in 1990 to 31 days now.
\"On the beaches in Rio, the cans hardly hit the sand before they are snapped up and back in the system,\" Giosa said.
Brazil\'s population, many of whom live in poverty, as well as the country\'s numerous, underfunded hospitals and schools in poorer neighborhoods have been cashing in on aluminum in exchange for food and much needed equipment.
\"There are 150,000 families who work just in collecting cans and they make between two and four times the minimum wage,\" said Giosa. Brazil\'s minimum wage is currently at 200 reais ($86) per month.
Teachers are organizing school kids and their parents to collect cans in exchange for classroom supplies ranging from chalk to overhead projectors. For a waist high bag of cans kids can get a note book to write their lessons in for the term.
\"In one of the AIDS treatment centers in Rio, the hospital didn\'t have an ambulance,\" said Giosa. \"We set up a can program in the area that gathered 2 million cans and now they have an ambulance.\"
Story by Reese Ewing
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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