Landfill’s closure changing lives in Rio


This article is about one of the world’s largest open-air landfills in Rio has been closed after more than three decades of operation. Jardim Gramacho or Gramacho Gardens is the largest landfill in Brazil and all of South America which piles almost 300 feet high across 14 million square feet, the equivalent of 244 American football fields. Jardim Gramacho was built in the late 1970s and it receives around to 8,000 tons of trash daily, 70% of all the trash in the Rio area. The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development will gather to take a exact look at the sustainable solution for the Earth’s environment for this landfill. The move of this landfill also comes in advance of Rio’s preparations to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. By 2014, Rio’s state environment minister goal is to close the 5 official open- air landfills and all the clandestine ones around Rio. These open- air landfills are providing way for more modern treatment facilites designes to reduce the environmental impact that it they are giving off. The trash from Jardim Gramacho is going to be transferred to Seropedica where is the most advanced treatment plant plant in all of Latin America.  Seropedica is designed to curb production of greenhouse gases and pollution of the Guanabara Bay marshes. The sludge from the decomposing trash will be treated and turned into recycled water in Rio. Also, all the escaping methane will be harvested for the whole city of Rio. Around 75 million cubic meters of methane gas will be collected over the next 15 years in Jardim Gramacho. The plan is for Brazilian petroleum company Petrobras to use this gas and will be able to run one of its refineries with the gas collected. The amount of catadores, people known who spend theirs days scavenging through landfills for plastic, paper, wood, metal, or anything that can be sold to recycling companies, have decreased from 5,000 catadores to around 2,000 after the business of these companies have gone down, which is a concern for them. After the film “Waste Land” came out, a lot of its funds helped the catadores because around 18% of the entire country’s recycling is done by catadores. The cooperative and city officials of Rio have more than $11 million as severance to be give among these catadores, who been working in these sites for the last few years. For the next 14 years the government will provide funds to give these catadores an education, tools to keep recycling, and also pay for classes if workers want to pursue another trade or career. The closing of Jardim Gramacho is bittersweet for these catadores because it is a step forward in rebuilding and conserving Rio’s environment, but for many people, jobs are lost. 

-Sofia Guerra

Topics and category: Pollution (landfills)


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