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Date: May 24, 2005

UVic Geographer Leads $1 Million Brazilian Recycling Project

A University of Victoria geographer is the Canadian leader of a $1 million international development project to help build community-based, sustainable recycling programs in Brazil.

What is learned in the process could be applied to some cities in Canada where waste scavenging is becoming a survival strategy for people who are economically or socially excluded.

The project is one of 11 international aid projects recently funded by the Canadian International Development Agency through its University Partnerships in Cooperation and Development (UPCD) program. The program promotes knowledge partnerships between Canadian universities and higher education organizations in developing countries.

In the six-year project, UVic social geographer Dr. Jutta Gutberlet will work with the Centro Universitário Fundação Santo André and other Brazilian partners to organize and train informal recycling collectors and cooperatives in four municipalities, including São Paulo, one of the world’s largest cities.

Informal recyclers are individuals or unorganized groups who make a living out of separating recyclables out of waste. In North America, the activity is known as “binning,” or “dumpster diving.” There are an estimated 200,000 informal recyclers in Brazil.

Informal recycling is a very widespread activity in poor countries,” says Gutberlet, who grew up in São Paulo and has more than 15 years of research experience on socio-economic and development issues in Latin America.

The four municipalities involved in the project are home to about 12 million people and have varying degrees of recycling activity and support from local governments. Up to 90 per cent of waste still ends up in landfills.

The project team will build on established contacts with local groups, governments and NGOs to help organize and strengthen the recycling sector. Training programs aimed at government officials and the wider community will deal with topics such as responsible consumption, efficient recycling, waste management, and participatory decision-making.

By empowering recyclers we hope to increase incomes, generate more jobs, and improve the environment and quality of life for everyone,” says Gutberlet.

The project team plans to pass lessons learned onto other municipalities in Brazil, South America —and even Canada. “There are similar problems of social exclusion and poverty in Canada, especially in the big cities like Vancouver,” says Gutberlet. “Governments everywhere should be looking for creative solutions to deal with these issues.”
Media contacts:

Dr. Jutta Gutberlet (Geography) at (250) 472-4537 or juttag@uvic.ca Valerie Shore (UVic Communications) at (250) 721-7641 or vshore@uvic.ca

UVic media releases and other resources for journalists are available on the World Wide Web at http://communications.uvic.ca/media

(image: fern)