Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Transforming Garbage - into Decent Jobs

Marcela Valente

BUENOS AIRES, May 16 (IPS) - The Argentine capital opened its first municipal plant for classifying solid waste - plastic, glass, paper, metal, cardboard and other materials - for recycling, as part of a project aimed at providing decent jobs for informal garbage collectors and reducing the amount of trash dumped into landfills.

The people sorting, classifying and processing rubbish in the City Plant for the Classification and Conditioning of Recyclable Material were until recently "cartoneros", the name given in Buenos Aires to those who make a meagre living picking through garbage.

The number of cartoneros skyrocketed during the severe economic crisis of late-2001 and 2002, but has shrunk somewhat as the economy recovered, to perhaps 10,000 today.

The cartoneros compete at a disadvantage with the garbage companies hired by the Buenos Aires city government, which collect 4,500 to 5,000 tons of rubbish every day and transport it to dumps on the outskirts of the city.

The cartoneros, meanwhile, with their hand- or horse-drawn carts, collect between 450 and 900 tons of garbage a day, depending on the weather. They sell the glass, paper, cardboard and other products to warehouses that pay them per kilo and the intermediaries sell the material to the recycling companies.

A new law on "Integral Management of Solid Urban Waste", which the international environmental group Greenpeace helped draft, went into effect in late 2005.

The law, better known as the "Zero Garbage Law", foments "rational consumption" and recycling and is designed to gradually bring about decent working conditions for the cartoneros.

"The idea is to reduce as much as possible the garbage that goes to the landfills or is incinerated, to curb pollution of the soil, air and water," Greenpeace activist Juan Carlos Villalonga told IPS.

The law stipulates that the amount of garbage in landfills is to be reduced by 50 percent by 2012 and 75 percent by 2017, from 2003 levels.

To reach that goal, the Buenos Aires city government has sponsored the organisation of cooperatives of garbage scavengers and provided space for the first warehouse, located on the west side of the city and inaugurated on May 1, International Labour Day.

It has also launched a pilot garbage separation programme in buildings more than 20 stories high, public offices, five-star hotels, and housing, businesses and offices in the exclusive Buenos Aires district of Puerto Madero, on the Río de la Plata coast.

In these areas, people and businesses separate their dry waste products from the organic waste, and the former is taken by garbage collection companies to the new plant. The law also states that the companies must build five new recycling centres, to be run by cooperatives of cartoneros.

"For now, we are practicing with small quantities to learn how to classify, but we will later have to learn to handle larger volumes and how to register purchases, sales and payments," Francisco Monzón, president of the Bajo Flores Ecological Cooperative of Recyclers, which is running the city's new plant, told IPS.

Monzón, who worked in the construction industry, has been unemployed for a decade, and turned to scavenging to scrape by. He used to gather cardboard which he stored in his backyard and sold on his own. In 2002, he set up a cooperative with 30 other cartoneros, in order to obtain better prices for the recyclable material.

Monzón's cooperative was the first to benefit from the "Zero Garbage" project. The Buenos Aires city government built the plant, bought the machinery, and loaned the installations for five years to the members of the cooperative, who hope to boost their incomes and who are working in a safer, dignified environment.

For now, 30 cartoneros are working in the plant, processing 10 tons of waste a day. But the goal is to eventually expand to 90 workers, who would handle 120 tons a day.

The workers wear gloves, masks and uniforms, to protect them from the health risks, and they are also safe from the dangers they used to face in the streets, hauling their carts along busy roads.

The warehouses that purchase recyclable waste from the cartoneros charge 15 percent more when they sell it to the recycling companies, which in turn add a similar percentage to the cost when they sell it, transformed into material that can be used by industry.

The law states that the overall amount of garbage in the dumps must be reduced, and that the proportion that goes to the garbage separation and classification warehouses must steadily increase. (END/2006)

The Next Green Revolution

How technology is leading environmentalism out of the anti-business, anti-consumer wilderness.
By Alex Nikolai Steffen
For decades, environmentalists have warned of a coming climate crisis. Their alarms went unheeded, and last year we reaped an early harvest: a singularly ferocious hurricane season, record snowfall in New England, the worst-ever wildfires in Alaska, arctic glaciers at their lowest ebb in millennia, catastrophic drought in Brazil, devastating floods in India - portents of global warming's destructive potential.

Green-minded activists failed to move the broader public not because they were wrong about the problems, but because the solutions they offered were unappealing to most people. They called for tightening belts and curbing appetites, turning down the thermostat and living lower on the food chain. They rejected technology, business, and prosperity in favor of returning to a simpler way of life. No wonder the movement got so little traction. Asking people in the world's wealthiest, most advanced societies to turn their backs on the very forces that drove such abundance is naive at best.

With climate change hard upon us, a new green movement is taking shape, one that embraces environmentalism's concerns but rejects its worn-out answers. Technology can be a font of endlessly creative solutions. Business can be a vehicle for change. Prosperity can help us build the kind of world we want. Scientific exploration, innovative design, and cultural evolution are the most powerful tools we have. Entrepreneurial zeal and market forces, guided by sustainable policies, can propel the world into a bright green future.

Americans trash the planet not because we're evil, but because the industrial systems we've devised leave no other choice. Our ranch houses and high-rises, factories and farms, freeways and power plants were conceived before we had a clue how the planet works. They're primitive inventions designed by people who didn't fully grasp the consequences of their actions.

Consider the unmitigated ecological disaster that is the automobile. Every time you turn on the ignition, you're enmeshed in a system whose known outcomes include a polluted atmosphere, oil-slicked seas, and desert wars. As comprehension of the stakes has grown, though, a market has emerged for a more sensible alternative. Today you can drive a Toyota Prius that burns far less gasoline than a conventional car. Tomorrow we might see vehicles that consume no fossil fuels and emit no greenhouse gases. Combine cars like that with smarter urban growth and we're well on our way to sustainable transportation.

You don't change the world by hiding in the woods, wearing a hair shirt, or buying indulgences in the form of save the earth bumper stickers. You do it by articulating a vision for the future and pursuing it with all the ingenuity humanity can muster. Indeed, being green at the start of the 21st century requires a wholehearted commitment to upgrading civilization. Four key principles can guide the way:

Renewable energy is plentiful energy. Burning fossil fuels is a filthy habit, and the supply won't last forever. Fortunately, a growing number of renewable alternatives promise clean, inexhaustible power: wind turbines, solar arrays, wave-power flotillas, small hydroelectric generators, geothermal systems, even bioengineered algae that turn waste into hydrogen. The challenge is to scale up these technologies to deliver power in industrial quantities - exactly the kind of challenge brilliant businesspeople love.

Efficiency creates value. The number one US industrial product is waste. Waste is worse than stupid; it's costly, which is why we're seeing businesspeople in every sector getting a jump on the competition by consuming less water, power, and materials. What's true for industry is true at home, too: Think well-insulated houses full of natural light, cars that sip instead of guzzle, appliances that pay for themselves in energy savings.

Cities beat suburbs. Manhattanites use less energy than most people in North America. Sprawl eats land and snarls traffic. Building homes close together is a more efficient use of space and infrastructure. It also encourages walking, promotes public transit, and fosters community.

Quality is wealth. More is not better. Better is better. You don't need a bigger house; you need a different floor plan. You don't need more stuff; you need stuff you'll actually use. Ecofriendly designs and nontoxic materials already exist, and there's plenty of room for innovation. You may pay more for things like long-lasting, energy-efficient LED lightbulbs, but they'll save real money over the long term.

Redesigning civilization along these lines would bring a quality of life few of us can imagine. That's because a fully functioning ecology is tantamount to tangible wealth. Clean air and water, a diversity of animal and plant species, soil and mineral resources, and predictable weather are annuities that will pay dividends for as long as the human race survives - and may even extend our stay on Earth.

It may seem impossibly far away, but on days when the smog blows off, you can already see it: a society built on radically green design, sustainable energy, and closed-loop cities; a civilization afloat on a cloud of efficient, nontoxic, recyclable technology. That's a future we can live with.

Alex Nikolai Steffen (alex@worldchanging.com) runs Worldchanging.com and edited the book Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century

Monday, May 15, 2006

Greenpeace in all Newspaper´s covers




Greenpeace´s action was in hundreds of newspapers.

Picture: Evangelina Carrozo, Queen of Gualeguaychú´s Carnival

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Best Desing Sites

A site where you can find the best of the web desing: