Standing among sacks of used supermarket shopping bags, soft drink bottles and detergent containers, Evelin Marcele is scornful of Brazil’s efforts to recycle plastic waste.
“Almost nothing,” said the 40-year-old director of CoopFuturo, a sorting center for recyclable material in Rio de Janeiro, where plastic makes up 60 percent of the roughly 120 tonnes of garbage delivered to the facility every month.
Brazil is the fourth biggest producer of plastic rubbish in the world, beaten only by the United States, China and India, according to a recent report published by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
But the Latin American country recycles just 1.28 percent of the 11.4 million tonnes it generates every year, which the WWF said was well below the global average of nine percent.
An estimated 7.7 million tonnes of plastic ends up in landfills.
“People are consuming more, generating more garbage and the governments didn’t prepare the cities with the infrastructure that was required to deal with this problem,” Anna Lobo of WWF-Brazil told AFP.
“Ninety percent of Brazil’s population has heard about sustainability and say they understand the problems in the environment. In reality few people change their habits.”
The world currently produces more than 300 million tonnes of plastics annually, and there are at least five trillion plastic pieces floating in our oceans, scientists have estimated.
At a UN meeting in Kenya in March nations committed to “significantly reduce” single-use plastics over the next decade.
But Brazil is “way behind,” said Marcele as CoopFuturo workers wearing black gloves rummaged through a pile of rubbish bags to find material that could be recycled.
More government investment in infrastructure — such as sorting and recycling plants — and individual action was needed.
“Infrastructure, help — we don’t have either,” she complained.
Political leaders “are not worried about this, they’re worried about other things.”