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Wastepicker mobilization against incinerator in São Bernardo do Campo, São Paulo, Brazil

Wastepickers of São Bernardo do Campo have been at the forefront of a broad civil society alliance against the incineration of waste, leading to the temporary halting of one incinerator project and ongoing struggles against others in São Paulo.


An incinerator for urban solid waste has been proposed by the municipal government of the city of São Bernardo do Campo, in the Brazilian state of São Paulo. The so-called Usina Verde plant would be composed of a Waste Processing and Re-utilization System (Spar) and an Energy Recovery Unit (URE) to generate energy, providing heat to a thermoelectric plant which was also to be built. Its implementation was proposed through a 2012-signed public-private partnership (PPP) in the waste sector between the municipality of São Bernardo and the consortium SBC Valorização de Resíduos Revita e Lara.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Wastepicker mobilization against incinerator in São Bernardo do Campo, São Paulo, Brazil
State or province:São Paulo
Location of conflict:São Bernardo do Campo
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Waste privatisation conflicts / waste-picker access to waste
Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Specific commodities:Domestic municipal waste
Recycled Metals
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The incinerator was planned to be opened on the area of the former Alvarenga landfill, occupying approximately 300,000 m². It was part of a private-public partnership (PPP) that was agreed for 30 years and came as a political response to a Conduct of Terms of Adjustment (TAC; Termo de Ajustamento de Conduta) agreement signed by the municipalities of São Bernardo and Diadema in 2000. They were judicially condemned to initiate compensation measures and remediate caused environmental damages in the Alvarenga neighborhood.

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Project area:30,000
Level of Investment for the conflictive project1,300,000,000.00
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:wastepickers of seven municipalities & urban population
Start of the conflict:2010
Company names or state enterprises:Consórcio SBC Valorização de Resíduos Sólidos Revita e Lara (SBC Valorização) from Brazil - Waste operator
Revita Engenharia S.A. from Brazil
Lara Central de Tratamento de Resíduos Ltda from Brazil
Relevant government actors:Cetesb (São Paulo State Environment Company)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:National Waste Picker Movement (MNCR)
GAIA International
Coopcent ABC, Refazendo & Cooperativa Reluz, Cooperativa de Catadores e Catadoras da Granja Julieta and other local wastepicker associations
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Trade unions
Wastepickers, recyclers
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Global warming, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Land dispossession
Potential: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of livelihood, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Displacement
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Court decision (undecided)
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project cancelled
Project temporarily suspended
Proposal and development of alternatives:Strengthen recycling measures in the city and protect source of livelihood of wastepickers
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The mobilization was successful as the licensing process got stopped and the contract canceled by the new municipal government. In the meantime, however, new incinerator projects have been brought forward in the the state of São Paulo (e.g. Barueri, Mauá) using loopholes in Brazil's legislation, while environmental damages in the former landfill area of Alvarenga prevail. Wastepickers thus continue to fear losing their jobs.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Law that created the National Policy for Solid Waste
[click to view]

Court procedures regarding the action filed by the pickers
[click to view]

LEI Nº 13.579, DE 13 DE JULHO DE 2009 (Billings Law)
[click to view]

Local newspaper talks about demonstrations in São Bernardo do Campo
[click to view]

MNCR's blog on the demonstration of 2014 and negotiations with the mayor
[click to view]

More on demonstrations by the MNCR's blog
[click to view]

About the Living Legacy prize received by one of the leaders, Maria Monica da Silva
[click to view]

The MNCR's blog on the pickers' demonstrations
[click to view]

"No to incineration" campaign's blog about the hardships the pickers are facing since the plans for the incinerator began
[click to view]

Local newspaper asks specialists' opinions on the incinerator project
[click to view]

Local newspaper talks about the incinerator project
[click to view]

[click to view]

GAIA's website - an article about the National Campaign against incinerators
[click to view]

Cooperativa Reluz (2016): Breve Histórico da Cooperativa Reluz.
[click to view]

Repórter Diário (2018): Antigo lixão do Alvarenga ainda aguarda remediação. 26.01.2018.
[click to view]

Selicani, V. (2018): SBC: ecopontos fecham e coleta seletiva some das ruas. Metrojornal, 04.07.2017.
[click to view]

Repórter Diário (2017): Prefeitura de São Bernardo rejeita auditoria na PPP do lixo. 20.06.2017.
[click to view]

Siemaco ABC (2017): Em recuperação judicial, EMPARSANCO/SA é contratada pela Prefeitura de São Bernardo do Campo. 25.08.2017.
[click to view]

Repórter Diário (2017): Juíza concede liminar para Morando desapropriar terreno para usina. 14.06.2017.
[click to view]

MNCR (2011): Grito contra a incineração do lixo é promovido em S. Bernardo do Campo. 22.07.2011.
[click to view]

MNCR (2011): Catadores e servidores públicos unidos contra a incineração do lixo. 22.06.2011.
[click to view]

Gaia (2014): Catadores participam da Marcha da Primavera Poluída. 07.10.2014.
[click to view]

Carvalho, C. (2017). Lara apresenta projeto de usina para prefeitos do ABC. Repórter Diário.
[click to view]

Portal Saneamento Básico (2017): Cetesb afirma que arquivamento de usina ocorreu devido à falta de documentos do Consórcio SBC. 11.05.2017.
[click to view]

Gaia (2014): Catadores participam da Marcha da Primavera Poluída. 22.09.2014.
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

"No to incineration" campaign's website
[click to view]

An engineer from the website Resíduos Sólidos comments on the project
[click to view]

Other documents

The neighborhood of Alvarenga (Pedro Diogo)
[click to view]

Prefeitura Sao Bernardo - Nota de Esclarimento
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Alice Kasznar & EnvJustice Project (MS)
Last update02/02/2020
Conflict ID:2382
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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