Bucket Revolution project: Recovering organic waste in Brazil
By Andressa Collet
Food left on plates after a meal can either go straight into the waste bin or be used to create an environmentally friendly, home composting system.
This humid waste becomes nutrient-rich organic fertilizer in a virtuous cycle for the production of fresh foods ready to grace our tables. Hard to put into practice? Not if awareness and understanding are raised and encouraged, as is the case with a project in Florianópolis, Santa Catarina, in southern Brazil.
"Revolução dos Baldinhos" (i.e., the "Bucket Revolution") promotes community composting by working on waste management and developing urban agriculture. In 2008, when this association was founded, the goal was to solve a serious problem of pollution and contamination due to improper waste management, which led to rat infestations in the city and the death of many people from various diseases. Today the project operates in two of the 12 communities in the "Complexo de Monte Cristo," where 35 thousand citizens reside. According to Cíntia Cruz, community leader and president of the association, 2,400 families are currently involved in the proper disposal of waste and in conscientious consumption habits and there are good hopes that even more will join their ranks.
"I believe that all collective action has an impact," she says, "especially because the community embraced the project and believed that we can make a difference, change our situation by separating our waste, by enhancing areas for coexistence and relationships. The project," Cíntia continues, "has brought great potential to the community. We are talking about various types of action, not only the protection of the Planet, but quality of life, food sovereignty, empowerment."
The power of social “technology”
The "Revolução dos Baldinhos" was created in collaboration with the Federal University of Santa Catarina and the participation of residents of the "Complexo do Monte Cristo," raising awareness among families about recycling food waste into organic compost. After the sorting done in homes, schools and kindergartens, it goes to the public trash collection system where special attention is given to organic waste. Stored in a special "bucket," such waste is taken by program volunteers who then process it into compost that residents use in gardens and vegetable gardens to fertilize the soil and produce fresh, wholesome food. The composting facility involved in this project receives an average of 8 tons of waste per month.
Cíntia explains how the whole process works: "We have 32 voluntary drop-off points within the community, where residents dispose of the remnants of their food, that is, anything that has been peeled, that is left over from lunch, all organic materials. We go to these points twice a week -every Tuesday and Friday- we collect the waste and take it to the facility that operates within the community. We treat the waste, through composting, and return bags of compost to the family to promote urban agriculture. Through the composting project, we cultivate and strengthen relationships, both with the environment and among the residents themselves, many of whom are really excited to be able to contribute to environmental protection in this way as well."
In addition to receiving awards in Brazil, the project and its benefits were also recognized internationally, in Germany, in 2019. In fact, the World Future Council (WFC) certified the initiative as "one of 15 agroecological practices of excellence in the world" for using "replicable social technology" and for meeting the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)'s sustainability criteria.
In Brazil, it is estimated that more than 60 percent of all generated waste is organic in nature: we are talking about 37 million tons. Even according to 2019 data from the Brazilian Association of public cleaning and special waste companies (Abrelpe), only 1 percent of what is discarded is reused to become gas fuel, energy and fertilizer. The use of the composting technique, therefore, benefits both the environment, by reducing the generation of methane gas harmful to the atmosphere, and public health, by improving hygienic standards, as well as turning the economy around by promoting employment and income for people involved in organic recycling activities.
"The effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now," Pope Francis wrote in Laudato si' (LS 161), commenting on the catastrophic predictions and consequences of climate change and pollution, also due to the waste we will leave behind for the next generations due to the "pace of consumption, waste and environmental change" that is severely affecting the Planet (LS 161). "The Pope is very dynamic, courageous and firm in advancing the cause of the environment and some issues that need to be discussed by humanity, especially the issue of conscientious consumption," Cíntia says. She thinks that today human beings have no notion of how to properly inhabit the Earth. "That is why it is really necessary to discuss it, to try to adopt good practices. I think that at the basis of everything there has to be love for one's neighbor and compassion; we have to understand that only people can save people, especially in the fight against social inequality. You have to help each other, come together. And I believe that the Pope's advocacy can strengthen this 'struggle,' especially in eradicating poverty. So, exchanging ideas, bringing to the forefront these issues that are often taboo for some parts of society today, is fundamental."
Concluding, Cíntia reiterates the Pope's thinking, saying she is counting on the "Revolução dos Baldinhos" to transform people: "collective action has the strength and power to transform, in fact, not only our habits, but our relationships, our future, that of the whole Human Community. The impact that the project has in strengthening these relationships is enormous and it is very rewarding to realize that we can go beyond what the system proposes."
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