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Wastepickers mobilization against the carbonization of solid waste, Rondônia, Brazil


Description:

A small incinerator for urban solid waste is currently being installed by the company Usitrar Eco-Energy in the town of Riozinho, in proximity to the city of Cacoal in the Brazilian State of Rondônia. [1][2][3]

It is conceptualized as a carbonization plant that uses a pyrolysis procedure and lower temperatures than common incinerators, transforming waste into coal that can be used in industrial and thermoelectric processes. [4] Proponents of the project praise the plant as “the most modern, efficient and viable in the world” and promise the creation of jobs and economic activity in the region. That would convert Cacoal into a pioneer in waste-based energy generation, while at the same time reducing waste volumes and supposedly solving problems of environmental contamination at dumpsites. Considering the applied technology as harmless and safe, they also argue that the carbonization plant would work in “partnership” with wastepickers and industries from the region, so that all waste will first pass treatment of wastepickers. Thus, only what is really disposable would end up in the pyrolysis process. Moreover, municipal waste management costs would be reduced by half. [4][5][6]

In 2018, the carbonization plant became opposed by residents of Riozinho who held street protests against the project. Individuals also reported about disinformation, as they had initially believed that a recycling plant was being built. [7] Reacting to that, Cacoal’s mayor in June 2018 suspended the company’s watershed certificate, and with that, de facto the operation license, arguing that there is no guarantee that the plant would not cause risks to public health. [7][8][9] In July 2018, the carbonization project was furthermore questioned by the Public Ministry of Rondônia, which also requested the cancellation of Usitrar’s installation permit issued by the municipality as well as of the environmental license issued by the public authority Sedam, on the grounds of the precautionary principle and lacking environmental impact studies. It moreover requested a temporary stop of the advancing of the project and the Prosecutor’s Office of Cacoal to investigate possible irregularities in the environmental licensing process. [2][3] The former was however turned down by a judge, who argued that incineration project would be within the legislative framework, ensuring both economic activity and competition as well as environmental protection through the reduction of waste volumes. Hence, the company relaunched construction works at the site. [2][4] Project proponents then appeased that objections would only come because pyrolysis technology is still not well established in Brazil and would thus, as “something new”, encounter fear. [6]

In the following, especially the wastepicker movement publicly mobilized against the carbonization plans in Cacoal. In August 2018, wastepicker associations and cooperatives from the entire region linked to the National Movement of the Collectors of Recyclable Material (MNCR) held a demonstration march with 150 participants to the town hall of Cacoal and demanded the stop of construction works at the plant and of all incineration plans in Rondônia. Participants declared: “Catador unido, jamais será vencido”. [1][2][10][11] Wastepickers cooperatives expressed the fear that, contrary to what the company promises, the carbonization process would led to the simple burning of recyclable material. [11][12] Hence, the movement particularly pointed to the adverse social implications of waste incineration which directly jeopardizes recycling work. It thus affects the basic source of income and survival for thousands of wastepickers – in case of Riozinho, almost 6,000 wastepickers in the state of Rondônia – two thirds of them working informally, and the rest organized in associations or cooperatives. The loss of recycling jobs due to the burning of waste would especially affect those with lower employability. As they moreover argued, law 12.305/10, which implements Brazil’s solid waste policy, only allows for incineration as a measure of last resort in areas without existing recycling infrastructure. Rondônia, however, has 22 recycling cooperatives and functioning landfills. [1][11] The campaign against the carbonization plant was supported by MFM Soluções Ambientais,operator of three landfills in Rondônia. [1][13][14]

The movement also pointed to the public health and environmental risks related to incineration: First, there are remaining problems in the filtering of micro-particles, which would require major investments and rigid safety standards, and, second, the treatment process of slag and toxic ash resulting from incineration remains critical and largely unaddressed. [14] Such concerns were also expressed by residents of Riozinho who held new street protests against the incineration plans. Calling the project a “factory of cancer”, the protesters particularly expressed concerns about respiratory and potentially carcinogenic impacts of emitted toxins. [5] Also several council members in public statements blamed public authorities for a lack of responsibility and raised concerns about the immanent start of operation of the incinerator. They also pointed to the lack of public debate, audiences and consulting of the council, the unsolved concerns over environmental security and the impacts on wastepicker livelihoods. [1] [11]

For a longer time, incineration and carbonization plans have been increasingly proposed across Brazil but also face opposition by a broad civil society movement under the slogan “No to incineration!”. In particular, more than 20 Brazilian civil society organizations, including the National Movement of the Collectors of Recyclable Material (MNCR) and the Global Alliance for Incineration Alternatives (GAIA), launched a new declaration against urban waste incineration in 2018 as part of the ‘National Coalition against the Incineration of Waste’. As an alternative, they demanded more support for recycling work as a way to comply with Brazil’s National Solid Waste Policy. As they point out, that would, among others, imply political measures to incentivize reduction, reuse and recycling of waste and a ban of false solutions such as incineration. [14][15] In 2019, a series of mobilizations against took place across Brazil, both against specific projects and ongoing legislative projects that aim to establish incineration within public policy. Most notably, Brazil Zero Waste Program (Lixão Zero Program) and a resolution enacted in April 2019 set incineration as the country’s official waste management policy, which, as opponents argue, contradicts with the promised promotion of recycling work done by wastepickers. [16]

As of December 2019, there is no new information about the advancing of the carbonization project in Riozinho.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Wastepickers mobilization against the carbonization of solid waste, Rondônia, Brazil
Country:Brazil
State or province:Rondônia
Location of conflict:Riozinho, Cacoal
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Urban development conflicts
Waste privatisation conflicts / waste-picker access to waste
Incinerators
Specific commodities:Domestic municipal waste
Recycled Metals
Charcoal

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Investment sum in the plant and carbonization technology was R$ 10 million. [6] It was expected to create 30 jobs, a tax revenue of R$ 1.5 million for the municipality, and new economic opportunities through the commercialization of generated coal. [4] However, as outlined above, wastepicker movements see 6,000 jobs endangered, of both informal recyclers and people emplyed in one of Rondônia’s 22 wastepicker cooperatives. [1] One cooperative alone reports to employ recycle material between 80 and 100 tons per month, particularly plastic and paper. [9]

Level of Investment:2,500,000
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:6,000
Start of the conflict:2018
Company names or state enterprises:Industria de Tratamento e Transformacao de Residuos Ltda (Usitrar Eco-Energy) from Brazil - Operator of carbonization plant
Relevant government actors:Secretaria de Estado do Desenvolvimento Ambiental (Sedam)
Public Ministry of Rondônia (MP)
Municipality of Cacoal
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:-National Movement of Waste Pickers of Recyclable Materials in Brazil (MNCR)
-Coalizão Nacional contra a Incineração de Lixo
- Cooperativa de Catadores de Recicláveis (Coopercatar)
- Cooperativa Rondoniense de Catadores e Catadoras de Materiais Recicláveis (Catanorte)
- Zero Waste Alliance of Brazil
- Observatory for Inclusive and Solidarity Recycling of Brazil

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Informal workers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Wastepickers, recyclers
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Global warming, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Health ImpactsPotential: Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsRespiratory and potentially carcinogenic impacts of emitted toxins
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impactsParticular impacts on informal recyclers with lower employability

Outcome

Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
New legislation
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Under negotiation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project temporarily suspended
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure

Sources & Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Lei 12.305/10
https://www.mma.gov.br/cidades-sustentaveis/residuos-solidos/politica-nacional-de-residuos-solidos

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[14] MFM Soluções Ambientais (2018): Manifesto: Coalizão declara ‘Guerra’ contra a carbonização do lixo urbano. Portal Rondonia Vivo, 11.07.2018. (Online, last accessed 30.11.2019)
http://rondoniaovivo.com/geral/noticia/2018/07/11/manifesto-coalizao-declara-guerra-contra-carbonizacao-do-lixo-urbano.html

[15] Manifesto Resíduo Zero (2019): Incineração de resíduos em fornos de cimento: riscos para a saúde e o meio ambiente. 11.04.2019. (Online, last accessed 30.11.2019)
https://manifesto.residuozero.org.br/2019/04/incineracao-de-residuos-em-fornos-de-cimento-riscos-para-a-saude-e-o-meio-ambiente/

[16] Globalrec (2019): Brasil: Gran movilización contra la incineración de residuos. 12.09.2019. (Online, last accessed 30.11.2019)
https://globalrec.org/es/2019/09/12/brasil-gran-movilizacion-contra-la-incineracion-de-residuos/

[4] Portal Madeirão (2018): Decisão judicial remove entrave e Cacoal será pioneiro no país em gerar energia com lixo. 19.07.2018. (Online, last accessed 30.11.2019)
http://madeiraoweb.com.br/rondonia/decisao-judicial-remove-entrave-e-cacoal-sera-pioneiro-no-pais-em-gerar-energia-com-lixo/

[5] Jornal 100 Limite (2018): População do distrito do Riozinho pedem socorro contra o Câncer “Usina de Incinerador de Lixo”. 19.08.2018. (Online, last accessed 30.11.2019)
https://www.jornal100limite.com/single-post/2018/06/19/Popula%C3%A7%C3%A3o-do-distrito-do-Riozinho-pedem-socorro-contra-o-C%C3%A2ncer-%E2%80%9CUsina-de-Incinerador-de-Lixo%E2%80%9D

[6] Santos, J. (2018): Autoridades visitam usina de carbonização de lixo em Cacoal e conferem tecnologia ecológica. Jornal Correio de Rondônia, 27.06.2018. (Online, last accessed 30.11.2019)
https://correioderondonia.com/cidades/cacoal/autoridades-visitam-usina-de-carbonizacao-de-lixo-em-cacoal-e-conferem-tecnologia-ecologica/

[7] Rolnews (2018): Prefeita de Cacoal suspende licença para queima de lixo. 22.06.2018. (Online, last accessed 30.11.2019)
https://www.rolnews.com.br/noticia/prefeita-de-cacoal-suspende-licenca-para-queima-de-lixo

[8] Prefeitura de Cacoal (2018): Cancelamento de certificado acaba com incertezas sobre usina no Riozinho. 21.06.2018. (Online, last accessed 30.11.2019)
https://www.cacoal.ro.gov.br/2018/06/21/2809/

[10] Tribuna Popular (2018): Catadores protestam contra usina de queima de lixo, em Riozinho. 16.08.2018. (Online, last accessed 30.11.2019)
http://www.tribunapopular.com.br/noticia/catadores-protestam-contra-usina-de-queima-de-lixo-em-riozinho

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[9] Agora (2018): Prefeita de Cacoal suspende licença para queima de lixo. 21.06.2018. (Online, last accessed 30.11.2019)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxU_HXX8ND8

[11] Agora (2018): Catadores de Rondônia lutam contra a carbonização do lixo urbano. 20.08.2018. (Online, last accessed 30.11.2019)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2H0n2bH64LU&feature=emb_logo

Other documents

Wastepicker movement demonstrating in 2018 (Rogério Aderbal, Tribuna Popular)
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/4832/demonstration_2018_-_Tribunal_Popular__Rogério_Aderbal

Meta information

Contributor:EnvJustice Project (MS)
Last update20/01/2020

Images

 

The carbonization plant in Riozinho, 12 kilometers from Cacoal

(Source: Correio do Rondônia)

A protest march against incineration in Cacoal, August 2018

(MNCR)

Protests of the wastepickers movement in 2018

(MNCR)

Wastepicker protests 2018

(Source: rolnews.com.br)

A protest march against incineration in Cacoal, August 2018

(MNCR)

A broad civil society movement campaigns:

(MFM)

Residents of Riozinho protesting against the incinerator

(Jornal100limite.com / Facebook)

A broad civil society movement campaigns:

(MFM)

Protests of the wastepickers movement in 2018

(MNCR)

Residents of Riozinho protesting against the incinerator

(Jornal100limite.com / Facebook)

Residents of Riozinho protesting against the incinerator

(Jornal100limite.com / Facebook)

Wastepicker protests 2018

(Source: rolnews.com.br)

Protest against incineration in Riozinho, 2018

(Agora)

Protest march against incineration in Cacoal 2018

(MFM)