SAO PAULO, BRAZIL — A retail chain is leading Brazil's first effort to encourage consumers to recycle PET bottles.
Sao Paulo-based Grupo Pao de Acucar SA introduced the program Jan. 19 by installing automated recovery machines in 10 Extra Hipermercados stores in the Sao Paulo region.
The company leased 40 of the machines from Environmental Products Corp. of Naugatuck, Conn. Thirty of the machines collect and grind PET bottles and 10 recover aluminum cans.
Consumers receive a coupon valued at about half a U.S. cent for each PET bottle and about a penny for each aluminum can. The coupons can be used at the supermarket or donated to a social project, including one aimed at eliminating child labor at garbage dumps.
Separating garbage at home for recycling is not a common practice in Brazil. Recycling activities are undertaken mainly by unemployed people who organize themselves in cooperatives to collect and sell paper, glass, plastics and especially cans to recycling firms.
However, the light weight, high volume and low market prices for recycled PET has held down the market, resulting in a growing PET litter problem and some public criticism.
Brazil has the third-largest soda industry worldwide. Roughly 793 million pounds of PET resin were consumed in 2000, and about 148 million pounds were recycled.
Before launching the recycling program, Extra tested the idea in the field for 10 months. During the trial, 103,000 pounds of PET were collected using a single Envipco machine.
"The result was amazing. There were days when the machine took in 6,000 bottles, roughly the equivalent to five times more than what occurs in the United States," said Mario Jussiani, director at Envipco do Brasil Ltda.
Pao de Acucar has invested about US$340,000 in the program. The company expects to collect 287,000 pounds of PET per month and plans to equip Extra's 52 stores with automated collection systems during the next two years.
The deal with Pao de Acucar represents Envipco's official debut in Brazil. The firm opened its first South American subsidiary in December. Envipco do Brasil is based in Maua.
"We believe that very good quantities of PET also exist in other parts of Brazil, and our plan is to be present all over the country and be the leader in recycling," Envipco President Gool Fantchurn said in a telephone interview.
He said Envipco plans to put 2,000-3,000 machines in Brazil in the next two years, of which two-thirds would be for PET recycling.