Brazil’s Environment Ministry to enforce solutions for product waste

In an article published last week by the Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, reporter Joana Cunha interviewed the Secretary for the Urban Environment, Adalberto Maluf, about the Ministry of the Environment’s initiative to strengthen the regulation of an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) model in Brazil. The initiative is seen as a crucial step towards ensuring compliance with reverse logistics obligations by national companies.

As she reports, implementing the National Solid Waste Policy (PNRS) still faces significant challenges, especially concerning the concept of shared responsibility, in which the law still needs to make clear the role of each actor involved in the waste management sector in Brazil. However, many of the challenges of implementing the PNRS could already have made significant progress if effective solutions that support both companies and waste pickers were put to good use. 

UK and Brazil-based BVRio created the world’s first waste credit system in response to the PNRS when it was first introduced in 2010. For over a decade, it has championed credit use as an effective contribution to the PNRS and, through an adaptation for the global market, other national laws of a similar nature. This tried-and-tested system connects companies with waste picker co-operatives in a win-win solution that facilitates compliance with legal obligations while promoting positive social and environmental impacts. 

Speaking about the news, BVRio Director, Mauricio Moura Costa, commented, 

“We welcome this news that there is to be a series of new decrees and ordinances to detail each agent’s roles in adequately disposing of waste in Brazil to organise the data and curb unverified figures. The debate in Brazil revolves around who is responsible for environmentally appropriate product waste disposal.”

“In our experience, this lack of defined roles, responsibilities, and infrastructure for appropriate waste disposal and collection in Brazil results in waste being dumped into the environment. Waste pickers are critical players in the waste management chain, and they must, according to the law, be involved in the solution for recyclables.”

“We saw a positive paradigm shift at the fourth session of the International Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution (INC-4), about the adoption of credit systems as an alternative to solving the problem of plastic pollution, and we hope that with some further clarity on responsibilities, that companies will increase their use of credits to fund waste pickers and other informal waste recovery initiatives.”

“However, for credit mechanisms to realise their socio-environmental potential, it is essential that they are structured and implemented transparently, avoiding the perception that they are a form of greenwashing. Indeed, schemes lacking traceability and transparency can result in unfounded claims of plastic footprint neutrality. But such cases are the exception.”

BVRio runs projects involving waste picker cooperatives to ensure funding reaches the sector where it is most needed. BVRio supports these cooperatives by helping them professionalise, providing additional products and services to strengthen their business, ensuring fair payment to waste pickers and improving their working conditions.

Another example of credit system applicability is BVRio’s ‘Fishing for Litter’ project in Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro. The initiative incentivises fishers to collect ocean waste, nearly doubling their earnings while helping them clean the ecosystem they depend on to make a living. Although they prefer fishing, pollution hampers their efforts, as they often catch more waste than fish. This initiative, poised for expansion, can potentially support fishers along the Brazilian coast by offering incentives to clean up seas and mangroves, revitalise endangered fishing communities, and preserve their livelihoods.