BL – Does the National Solid Waste Policy (PNRS) address the social impact of the closure of the dumps?
Tião Santos – Politics is very good for scavengers, but when you start applying for it, you find many barriers. City halls and even states view national policy as a landfill eradication policy, which it is not. One of its main objectives is the social inclusion of the collectors, the implementation of the selective collection as a public policy of inclusion of the collectors who became unemployed with the closure of the dumps. The law is clear as to the prefectures’ obligation to implement the PNRS, including the waste picker in the productive chain of garbage, but this does not happen.
BL – How is the reinsertion of the collectors taking place in the productive activity of the garbage chain?
Tião Santos – What you see in the great majority of city halls and government is “let’s close”, having this as a solution. So, although the policy treats solid waste as a common good, generator of labor, income and social inclusion, it ends up being a policy of exclusion exclusion, because the garbage is closed, promises are made and, after closure, everything Falls into oblivion, the population is abandoned, as is the Gramacho Garden. You do not see policies walking. The Brazilian governments do not give due importance to the PNRS because they are archaic, environmentally uneducated, unconscious governments on the environmental issues that involve the treatment of waste in the country.
BL – The National Solid Waste Policy is not being applied. It is?
Tião Santos – PNRS is being distorted, like many others in Brazil. The PNRS has its focus on sustainability, and this depends on the inclusion of the taster in the production chain. Sustainability is precisely the contrast between capitalism and the social exclusion of people. Sustainability is the balance of society, not only in environmental but also social and economic issues. So you pick up the PNRS, eradicate the dumps, because you have a stake in mega companies involved, mainly contractors, and put the waste pickers in limbo, it means that public policy is being totally misrepresented.
BL – What does society need to know about scavengers and what can it do to help the category?
Tião Santos – It is necessary to remember that the protagonism of the collectors in the recycling is total. 90% of the recyclables that arrive in the industry pass first through the hands of the scavengers; 89% of the work of the productive chain is done by the collectors; 60% of the waste pickers are still inside the garbage dumps and 30% are in the streets. Only 10% are organized in cooperatives. These cooperatives, for the most part, are still deficient in terms of infrastructure, because, as I said, recycling in Brazil is still seen as a thing of poor people in developed countries, this is an advance, a result of the citizen’s environmental conscience.
BL – How is today the Association of Metropolitan Waste Collectors of Jardim Gramacho of Rio de Janeiro (ACAMJG)?
Tião Santos – We have made very little progress. We have a sectoral agreement that does not hold companies accountable for the amount of packaging they place in the environment. The PNRS – I say again – is very good, because it defines that the polluter is paying and the polluter is a recipient, but this had to be made possible by a sectoral agreement and the sector agreement that was made in our case only benefits the companies, Because they are not held responsible for the amount of waste deposited in the environment. The only goal is to reduce 22% of waste, but it is not said how. The bulk of this work is done by the scavengers, but they are not paid for it.
BL: What example could illustrate this situation?
Tião Santos – If in one year the association collects 100 tons of pet bottle, who will get it for it? It should be the association, but the industry claims that it was not she who put these bottles into the environment. Now whose responsibility is the product? The law says it’s from the companies, and if the cooperatives are working to collect those 100 tons, it means we’re cleaners. The service of the scavengers is very clear. Who pays for the trucks to collect that? The cooperatives. It is not we who have to pay to collect the packaging, it is the polluter-payser and the PNRS makes this clear, but the sector agreement only benefits the companies. This type of sector agreement is an affront to PNRS. The companies have created a maneuver not to be held responsible for the waste from the products they manufacture.
BL – What does the country and its economy lose because they do not promote a truly inclusive public policy?
Tião Santos – It is necessary to see the waste with its economic, social and environmental value.
The economic issue is clear, Brazil fails to win by not recycling. Here, the destination of the waste has the following parameter: it is paid to place, paid to transport, paid to bury, no recycling, unlike other countries that prioritize recycling and see the waste as input, as As it really is. It has the social question, since the garbage collectors are still outside the productive activity of the garbage chain, the work of the garbage collector is not recognized and the contracts in progress benefit only the companies.