In 2021, Rio de Janeiro suffered a considerable economic impact, with a loss of R$2 billion due to ineffective solid waste management. The inadequate disposal of materials such as paper, plastic, glass and metal resulted in this impressive financial loss. These findings come from “Mapping of Post-Consumer Recyclables in the State of Rio de Janeiro,” a study by Firjan (Federation of Industries of the State of Rio de Janeiro), which is based on more than two million tons of waste with the potential for recycling, but which ended up in landfills.
According to the specialist in waste management, selective collection and president of the Urbam Group, Guilherme Almeida, this fact calls us to critical reflection and immediate action to improve the waste management and selective collection system. “Firstly, we need to seriously invest in education and public awareness. Educational campaigns are essential to educate the importance of recycling and correct waste disposal. Awareness raising could be the key to significant behavioral changes in society,” he explains.
Guilherme also says that, in addition, it is essential to develop and expand the selective collection infrastructure. “This will ensure that different types of waste are collected and treated appropriately. Infrastructure is the foundation of an effective recycling system. Policies and incentives also play a crucial role. We must implement measures that encourage recycling practices, from subsidies for recycling industries, to penalties for inappropriate disposal,” he says.
Guilherme also says that public-private partnerships can also be catalysts for the process. “Collaboration between government, companies and NGOs can share resources and knowledge, contributing to the development of more efficient infrastructure and technology for recycling. Technological innovation is an aspect that we cannot ignore. We need to invest in technologies that increase the efficiency of selective collection and recycling and waste identification systems and digital monitoring platforms.”
No less important, Guilherme ends by saying that the integration of the informal economy is essential. “Informal collectors and recyclers play a vital role in the recycling chain. Collaboration with them, providing access and resources to safer working conditions, is essential,” he says.