Painel sobre resíduos sólidos. Crédito: Luiz Felipe Silva

Virada Sustentável: panel considers solutions for waste management

Debate among representatives of business organizations, industry and State came up with proposals about solid waste and potential sustainable actions for dealing with waste

The Unibes Cultural stage received on Friday (24) the panel on The effects of the 4th Industrial Revolution in Waste Management, at the opening of the second day of activities of the 2018 Virada Sustentável Festival in São Paulo.

At the event, Carlos Silva Filho, president of the Brazilian Association of Public Cleaning and Special Waste (Abrelpe), Sabrina Gimenes de Andrade, of the Ministry of Environment (MMA), and Davi Bomtempo, environment and sustainability executive manager of the Brazilian Confederation of Industry (CNI), discussed the problems and potential solutions to the solid waste matter. The conversation was mediated by the journalist Caco de Paula. 

"What impact do we want to leave for our planet? This is the question that starts the debate on the direction we will take our lives." With this question, Carlos Silva Filho opened the discussion. For him, the retrospect is not exactly positive, and some points seem irreversible. He recalled that residues of human origin have been found both at the highest point on the planet, the Mount Everest, and in the deepest, the Marianas Trench, at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. However, the idea is to present a new look for the future.

The president of Abrelpe presented a global survey, conducted with business leaders from 97 countries, in which 97% of them said that the 4th Industrial Revolution will affect the issue of waste and recycling - as automation for waste treatment and redesign are pointed out as this movement’s most likely effects, with the emergence of new materials. "There will be new products, but also new waste," he said. He also mentioned Apple, that committed to use recycled materials in its production.

"We have to take advantage of the crisis to change our standard of living or we will have problems in the future," he said. "We will bring innovations to our industry. We can include technology in the producers’ sphere, such as including sensors to recover packaging, whose responsibility for the destination is on companies," he explained.

"Otherwise, we will be swallowed up by the next generation of businesses," he said.

What are the solutions for the disposal of solid waste?

"We adapt to the most absurd conditions. We look at pollution in an Amazonian stream, but do not realize the concrete of the city, or accept the nauseating smell of the Pinheiros River," Caco de Paula said, before talking about this subject. "We have to look for sustainable solutions with a future vision," he said.

According to CNI's Davi Bomtempo, one of the most important factors is educating the population to make adequate selective collection, and also, to include elements of the circular economy, cases of recycling and energy recovery in the society. "We have to take a more circular approach to waste. The industry must produce in a modular way and ensure that the entire production chain has this concern from the beginning," said the CNI manager.

Sabrina Gimenes de Andrade also points out the education of the consumers as a determinant factor, so that they buy sustainably and assume their share of responsibility in the post-consumption phase, while also including the State in this process. "The role of the State is to facilitate and give conditions to carry out recycling and reverse logistics", she said. "There are financial difficulties in supporting more. It would be great if there was at least one recycling machine in every Brazilian state, but that is not yet a reality," said MMA's general solid waste coordinator.
 

Da esquerda para direita: Carlos Silva Filho, Sabrina Gimenes de Andrade, Caco de Paula e Davi Bomtempo
Da esquerda para direita: Carlos Silva Filho, Sabrina Gimenes de Andrade, Caco de Paula e Davi Bomtempo 

The importance of waste perception is the key element to propose a new perspective, according to Carlos Silva Filho. "In solid waste management, it is the missing element. We need to have the vision that if we continue this way we will kill not only seals and turtles, but also humans," he said. "Citizens need to take ownership of this issue to put pressure on governments and companies", he said.

The dump problem

The president of Abrelpe reported that, annually, Brazil produces 78 million tons of urban solid waste, which ranks it as the fifth largest garbage producer in the world. On the other hand, the country recycles only 3% of this garbage and sends 40% of the total to the garbage dumps - in every country, the volume of garbage is around 3 thousand.

"It affects the miserable citizen who works in the dumps, but also contaminates the soil, water and air of cities," said Carlos Silva Filho. The concern about sustainability from a social point of view on solid waste was also considered one priority by the debaters.

"People need to take on new roles and it is our role to focus on providing professional qualification for these workers," said David Bomtempo. "Our dream is to transform the waste workers into regulated recyclers," concluded Sabrina Gimenes de Andrade.