Waste picking has always been a common yet marginalised profession in Brazil, as Brazilian cities lack formal recycling programmes. As such, a waste picker programme has been adopted for the Rio Olympics in partnership with the Brazilian waste pickers, Rio authorities and Coca-Cola.
240 waste pickers from 33 of Rio’s waste collecting co-operatives have been officially contracted to take care of the recyclable waste – taking plastic bottles and aluminium cans to a depot to be sorted, stored and sold on by co-ops to scrap merchants. They will be operating on three of the four Olympic sites: Maracana, Olympic Park and Deodoro.
For Rio 2016, Coca-Cola, Rio state government and Brazil’s federal government jointly invested around £720, 000 to fund the programme. The profits from the sales of the recycled goods will be shared between the workers on top of a fixed daily salary by the Olympic Committee while a percentage of the profits will be used to invest in new equipment.
Tania Braga, Head of Sustainability for Rio2016, declared that the waste pickers were expected to handle 3,500 tonnes of recyclables during the Olympic Games.
Solidarity economy coordinator at the Labour Ministry, Haroldo Mendonça, also stated that although Brazil is only beginning to understand the advantages of recycling, yet it can set the pace for other countries showing them how to combine environmental care with economic empowerment.
The hope is to use the model of the Rio waste picking programme – which was started at a smaller scale for Brazil’s football World Cup in 2014 – for other events throughout the year such as the Rio Carnival.