Baled aluminum cans in Brazilian recycling facility

Brazil's overall recycling rate is 4%, according to Abrelpe (Associação Brasileira de Empresas de Limpeza Pública e Resíduos Especiais)[1] but differs a lot from city to city.[2] Brazil has no structured municipal recycling programs.[2] Only 6.4% of Brazilian municipalities have official waste recycling programs [3] and more than 70% of Brazilians do not separate their recyclable materials into proper bins.[4] The recovery of recyclable material is largely left to waste pickers, who earn a living by collecting recyclables and selling them to private recycling companies.[2]

Main businesses in Brazil are taking a lead role in organizing recycling collection in the country's major cities.[5] In 1992, private companies from various areas established the Brazilian Business Commitment for Recycling (CEMPRE), a nonprofit organization work for the promotion of recycling within the scope of comprehensive waste management as an initiative to build a better environmental image for their associates.[2][5][6] CEMPRE tries to increase the community's awareness of recycling and other solid waste issues through publications, technical research, seminars, and databases.[2][5][6]

Waste pickers

Waste picker

The collection of recyclable materials in Brazil is largely from waste pickers.[2] Waste picking activities are supported by government. In Brazil, waste picking is now recognized as an occupation, and organized waste pickers are seen as legitimate stakeholders who can voice their opinions at the local, state, and national levels.[7] Recycling has difficulties advancing in Brazil. Only 41.4% of the population has access to selective collection.[8]

According to research conducted by Abrelpe in 2019, recyclable materials that go into landfill improperly resulted in a loss of R$14 billion reais annually. This loss could have been allocated to waste pickers who earn a living collecting recyclables.[1]

A national program, named Integrated Solid Waste and Carbon Finance Project, is developing strategies for incorporating waste pickers into local waste management systems.[7] Organizing waste picking activities into recycling cooperatives has been one of CEMPRE's main activities as well.[5]


Sorted waste containers

Brazil is one of the countries with the lowest recycling rates in the world, behind Yemen and Syria and well below the world average, which is 9%.[9] In Brazil, the main materials for reprocessing are aluminum, steel, glass, paper and plastics.[10] They also recycle batteries, cooking oil, laminated material, refrigerators and so on.[10][11] The results of plastic recycling are significantly low, but the aluminum recycling rate is one of the highest in the world.[12]


The paper industry in Brazil is responsible for 1% of the GDP.[13] In 2006, Brazil recycled 3.9 million tons, or 45 percent, of the paper materials produced that year.[2] Taking into consideration only the paper used in packaging, the recycling rate is even higher at 70 percent.[2] In Brazil, industries consume 2.8 million tons of recycled paper.[14] The paper recycling amount in Brazil varies greatly from area to area.[14] In the south and southeast area, rates of recycling are high, at 64% and 44% respectively; whereas it is 16% in other areas.[14]

Aluminum cans

In 2021, the country managed to recycle 98.7% of aluminum cans, which represents approximately 33 billion aluminum cans.[15] Since 1990, this is the highest rate in the history of can recycling, and is also one of the highest in the world.

Aluminum is collected and stored by a chain of about 2,000 scrap collectors.[16] 50% of the collectors are industries, and the others are supermarkets, schools, companies, and charitable entities.[16] Despite the excellent result with aluminum cans, recycling of other products is still widely low.

Steel cans

In Brazil, just 5% of drink cans are made of steel.[17] In 2007, Brazil's recycling rate for steel cans was 49 percent.[2] The total fraction of steel recycled in Brazil, including steel from old cars, household electronics, and building waste, is estimated to be 70%.[17]


Waste receptacle made from tires.

57% of the 260,000 tones of used tires estimated to be thrown away each year in Brazil were sent to cement ovens in Brazil.[18] In Brazil, used tires are applied to make artificial reefs in the sea, to increase fisheries production.[18] Energy can be recovered by burning the tires in controlled ovens, because each tire contains the energy of 9.4 liters of petroleum oil.[18]


Brazil is the 4th largest producer of plastic waste in the world, behind only the United States, China and India. Brazil produces about 11.3 million tons of plastic waste yearly,[9] but only 1.2% is recycled.[9] Every Brazilian produces around 1 kg of plastic waste weekly.[9] Also, 60% of the recycled plastic comes from industrial residue and 40% from urban refuse.[19]


There is a comprehensive refrigerator recycling program in Brazil.[20] They recycle refrigerators and freezers in order to reduce potential global warming, because they contain chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which are ozone layer depleting gases with extremely high global warming potential (GWP).[20]


  1. ^ a b "Índice de reciclagem no Brasil é de apenas 4%, diz Abrelpe". Agência Brasil (in Brazilian Portuguese). 2022-06-05. Retrieved 2023-04-21.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Look, M. (2009) Trash Planet: Brazil(Web). Retrieved 7 December 2014. Archived 13 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Ribeiro, H., Besen, G. R., Günther, W. R., Jacobi, P., and Demajorovic. 2005. Recycling Programs in partnership with scavenger associations as sustainability factor in metropolitan São Paulo, Brazil.
  4. ^ "Como o Brasil está começando a virar o jogo da reciclagem de plástico". Um só Planeta (in Brazilian Portuguese). Retrieved 2023-04-21.
  5. ^ a b c d United States Environmental Protection Agency. 2002. How to Establish Recycling and Composting Programs. United States Environmental Protection Agency.
  6. ^ a b "Brazilian Business Commitment for Recycling (CEMPRE)". Brazilian Business Commitment for Recycling (CEMPRE). Archived from the original on 1 December 2010. Retrieved 14 February 2010.
  7. ^ a b Medina, M. 2008. The informal recycling sector in developing countries. GRIDLINES. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
  8. ^ Soares, Gabriella (2021-06-13). "Reciclagem no Brasil atinge apenas 2,1% de tudo que é coletado". Poder360 (in Brazilian Portuguese). Retrieved 2023-04-21.
  9. ^ a b c d "Brasil é o 4º maior produtor de lixo plástico do mundo e recicla apenas 1%". G1 (in Brazilian Portuguese). Retrieved 2023-04-21.
  10. ^ a b Medina, H. V. 2008. Materials recycling: main trends of a new industrial sector in Brazil. Conference on resource efficiency. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
  11. ^ Unilever. 2010. Brazil: Recycling consumer waste. Retrieved 10 December 2014
  12. ^ Tangri, N. 2001. Brazil & Recycling. GreenYes Archives. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
  13. ^ Pixel4. "Recicla Sampa - História e reciclagem de papel: entenda o processo e como fazer". (in Brazilian Portuguese). Retrieved 2023-04-21.((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  14. ^ a b c "Office paper - The market for recycling". Brazilian Business Commitment for Recycling (CEMPRE). Archived from the original on 25 December 2010. Retrieved 14 February 2010.
  15. ^ "Brasil registra reciclagem de 98,7% de latas de alumínio em 2021". Agência Brasil (in Brazilian Portuguese). 2022-04-13. Retrieved 2023-04-21.
  16. ^ a b "Aluminum cans - The recycling market". Brazilian Business Commitment for Recycling (CEMPRE). Archived from the original on 25 December 2010. Retrieved 14 February 2010.
  17. ^ a b "Steel cans - The market for recycling". Brazilian Business Commitment for Recycling (CEMPRE). Archived from the original on 25 December 2010. Retrieved 14 February 2010.
  18. ^ a b c "Tires - The market for recycling". Brazilian Business Commitment for Recycling (CEMPRE). Archived from the original on 25 December 2010. Retrieved 14 February 2010.
  19. ^ "Rigid plastic - The market for recycling". Brazilian Business Commitment for Recycling (CEMPRE). Archived from the original on 25 December 2010. Retrieved 14 February 2010.
  20. ^ a b Programme Proklima. Introduction of a comprehensive refrigerator recycling programme in Brazil. German Technical Cooperation. Retrieved 10 December 2014.