The end of the largest dumping ground in Latin America

The end of the largest dumping ground in Latin America
Marcelo Caus Sicoli*

In November 2017 in London(UK) , I was extremely happy to receive an award from CIWM(Chartered Institution of Wastes Management ):  Best Resource Project by Facilities Management, representing the building which I manage, in Brasilia, capital of Brazil.
Inaugurated on April 21, 1960, by then-President Juscelino Kubitschek, Brasília is currently the third largest city in Brazil, just behind Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The city had the highest rates of development and quality of life in the country in 2016.
Although a rich,  modern and planned city,  for many decades, we had the largest dumping ground in Latin America, the second largest in the world.  The “structural dumping ground” (lixão da estrutural) was only 20 kilometers away from the very central part of the city where the Brazilian congress, Brazilian Supreme court and the presidential palace is located. The area had around 200 hectares.
The site receives 2.2 thousand tons of waste from households per day and at least 5 thousand tons of building rubble, which is equivalent to an average of 7.2 thousand tons of garbage per day.
After many tries, it was finally closed on January 20th 2018, after 60 years of activity. Out of curiosity, I searched on youtube for some videos. It is scary to see thousands of people searching for recyclable items (especially plastic and metal) working day and night among the mountains of trash of any kind watched by vultures.
The initial objective was to have the plant decommissioned in the second half of 2017, but, in agreement with cooperatives of waste pickers, it was decided that the project should be postponed to allow time to reach the equipment that makes up the sheds. In addition, they received a claim from the collectors that the proposed value for the payment of separate waste, of R$92(US$ 29), would not imply a fair payment to them. Thus, the government guaranteed that the amount paid to cooperatives per ton of waste treated, would increase to R$ 300(US$95), on average.
In addition to the amount paid per ton of material collected, the collectors received a training grant in the amount of R$300(US$95) and a financial compensation grant, destined to 1,200 collectors, in the amount of R$360(US$114), and also the value of the sale of the material which, according to the governor, will generate an average income of R$ 1,300(US$412) per person, with a workload of 4 to 6 hours per day, for five days per week.
Two years ago, the government hired four garbage collectors' cooperatives to make the selective collection in five regions of the Federal District(Brasilia). Currently, there are 22 cooperatives with 28 sorting and selective collection contracts. There are 11 cooperatives collecting 15 in cities of the state and 17 sorting waste. The capital has selective collection that serves 28 administrative regions and 70% of the population. According to officials, by the end of the government in 2018, they will reach 100% of the urban area of Brasília.
With the dump deactivated, the government will establish the destination of the land. Studies will be hired and the space will continue to receive construction waste until the completion of public bids for the screening areas for these materials.
This has a connection with law 12305/2010, which  Institutes the National Policy on Solid Waste in Brazil.

*the author is  a member of CIWM, which is located in London. Based in Brasilia-Brazil, he is an international consultant, real estate agent and building manager of the Southwest Clinical Centre. Also the Director of international affairs of ABRASSP(Brazilian Association of Building managers). E-mail:

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ABRASSP - Associação Brasileira de Síndicos e Condomínios

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