Challenges for the next steps

As well as the expansion of the municipal selective waste collection, tax exemptions in the recycling chain and the development of the recycling industry are fundamental

Brazil is one of the recycling champions in the world. This is due to the popular recycling model resulted from the recyclable material pickers, largely supported by the business sector. New breakthroughs depend on a greater public power engagement in the waste adequate destination, among other main factors, thus reducing the informal labor extent in the sector. However, in order to increase scale, the need for growth and improvement of the selective collection done by municipalities through systems that involve waste pickers organization is just one side of the coin. The other is the quest for greater sense of justice to exempt costs in the recycling productive chain, which historically presents tax distortions that discourage the use of recycled raw materials.

In its Article 33, Chapter III, the National Solid Waste Policy determines the creation of economic and financial tools for the sector development, but, so far, examples as what happened in Ceará are rare. That State was a pioneer when it approved the reduction of the Tax on Circulation of Goods and Services from 17% to 7% as an incentive to investments in the recycling industry, thus generating jobs and income, decentralizing the activity and taking it to the countryside. On the federal level, there is a National Industry Confederation proposal for the exemption of costs in the recycling chain being analyzed.

According to a study on technical and economic feasibility made by LCA Consultores, a tax reform could lead to a one-third increase in the recycling chain in Brazil, as per 2014 data. Besides taking into account the targets for packaging recovery envisaged in the agreement between companies and government, the increase in the substitution of virgin material for recycled one, with environmental impact reduction, has the potential to generate R$ 1.1 million a day as an additional benefit.

Target plan to increase
recycling in brazil

Source: Environment Ministry Public Note 02/2012 - call to the elaboration of the General Packaging Sector Agreement

Waste participation in
carbon emissions in Brazil

Source: SIRENE, 2010


Without neglecting the view that advances firstly depend on the compliance with the legislation, and based on the principle that says the change in the waste scenario must come from a joint duty involving government, companies and population, one of the most important demands is innovation – not necessarily represented by machinery and technology that is not always fit into the Brazilian reality, but by the one that provides new productive arrangements and management improvement.

The innovation challenge also falls upon the development of packages made with materials that offer the possibility of reusing or recycling, in addition to feasible technologies to increase the use and diversity of recycled products that are competitive in the market. As examples, there are the post-consumption long life packages, which are used in the production of recycled paper, and turn into pellets for new plastic objects and tiles and panels for civil construction; and aluminum cans, which are collected and transformed to be used by the automobile industry.

Likewise, the PET recycling industry is more and more mature in the country. According to the last census, over 90% of companies in the sector is over 5 years old, absorbing the material selected by the population and processed at waste picker cooperatives. From new bottles to truck bumpers, mobile phones, brooms and paint, the utilization diversity keeps growing. One of the highlights is the textile industry, which consumes 25.7% of recycled PET in Brazil and turns it into synthetic fibers for the production of clothes and other articles.

It is also important to mention the recent advances in the chain that recovers and processes mobile phone, computers and other electronic equipment that became obsolete, and the efforts made by partnerships between industry and retail trade for recycling and better value of plastic waste in general. This scenario has a great expansion potential from the business actions led by CEMPRE.


An important challenge for the country to achieve recycling targets is the development of the recycling industry park. The continued increase in the offer of recyclable material – resulted from the expansion of selective collection and investments on waster picker cooperatives productivity – needs to be backed by the proportional increase in demand for it in the form of raw materials to be turned into new products in the factories.

The return of economic growth opens opportunities as long as consumption grows and there is a greater need to protect products with packaging in order to increase the reach of its benefits and avoid wastage. The mapping coordinated by CEMPRE points the existence of 777 recycling industries in Brazil (2016 data) – the majority, in the South-Central region.

The Packaging Coalition, devoted to comply with the sector agreement made with the government for the reverse logistics of these materials, performs a key role in the process of entrenching the activity, which involves the articulation of different links – including the consumers at starting point of the chain. Apart from a consistent communication plan to reach different-profile populations, the strategy takes into account the continental size and the great diversity in Brazil when it comes to territory, culture and economic standards. The tasks of stimulating new habits and developing the recycling market in the Southeast requires different approaches and solutions from the ones planned for the Amazon or the Northeast.

  • Recyclable material bales, such as PET bottle and aseptic carton ones, furnish the recycling industry park, which will develop with actions by companies and government for recycling increase.

  • Post-consumption aseptic carton packages are processed for the production of recycled paper, tiles in the construction industry and other products.

  • Brazil is world’s best in recycling aluminum cans. It is an activity that generates income for thousands of families and it saves energy among other advantages to the environment.

  • Glass bottles are collected, transformed into shards and processed for the production of new packages.

  • Printer cartridges and other electro-electronic waste are also targeted by reverse logistics for adequate destination after use and later return to industrial production.

  • Cardboard is one of the oldest recyclable materials in Brazil and one of the most processed ones at waste picking cooperatives.


Business actions results indicate that the country is in the right recycling path. New investments are coming with the assurance of the regulatory context after the waste law was approved and the Ministry of Environment formalized the model for packaging reverse logistics supported by vast representation of business organizations through a discussion process led by CEMPRE.

The Packaging Coalition aims to add skills and contribute to the advance and synergy of actions in the recycling agenda, with participation of dozens of industrial, retail, distributing and importing organizations. Now, more business commitment from sectors that so far have not endorsed the reverse logistics agreement with the government is expected. Adequacy is considered essential to mobilize the necessary investments to the system operation and meet the targets set with the public power and society. This may be mandatory by means of a Federal Decree.

Nowadays, in the face of greater social control and market demands, special attention has been given to corporate governance aligned to the legal and normative framework, codes of conduct and ethical principles, due to the risks implied in the lack of adequacy. Subjects as “compliance” and “integrity” become sustainability assets in several business sectors – including those related to the compliance with the National Solid Waste Policy. The pressure of socioenvironmental demands bolsters the scenario, which also includes opportunities to be distinguished in the stock market by supporting laws created to improve quality of life and the relationship between man and environment.


It is time to act. Humanity’s demand for the planet’s resources is 50% than what nature can replace, according to the Living Planet Report, published by WWF international organization in 2014. One and a half planet would be necessary to produce the necessary resources at the current consumption level. If the rhythm does not change, future generations will face the risk of vital supplies, as water.

Waste recycling reduces extraction of resources to make new products and diminishes the impacts to water, land, health and biodiversity. I also saves energy in the industrial processes and reduces gas emissions that aggravate global climatic changes that put production and quality of life at risk and will be the subject of new national and international regulations in the context of commitments signed in the Paris Agreement. Landfills and open dumps emit 4% of all carbon set in the atmosphere in Brazil according to the National Emissions Recording System. The main element associated to it is methane gas released by decomposition of organic waste, which could be largely recycled by composting.

Good waste management has the potential to reduce emissions related to global warming. besides, it promotes social inclusion and income. Thus, the sector presents itself as one of those that more potentially can contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals. Launched by the United Nations in 2015 with many social, environmental and economic goals for 2030, the new agenda marks investments, public policies and business strategies in the world.

On its 25th year of existence, CEMPRE takes on current global challenges to reduce inequalities and eradicate poverty and famine, and urban waste recycling is its guiding principle. Collective engagement in the business world in synergy with public policies and people’s greater awareness towards socioenvironmental issues add up experiences and efforts so that the path can be trodden faster and more efficiently, with common benefits to all society. In the background, there is a commitment taken back in time – a commitment that renews itself in the face of new challenges and demands, on the way to a fairer and more sustainable future.