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Wastepickers and residents of Sarzedo struggle against incinerators, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Wastepickers of Minas Gerais have achieved a ban on solid waste incineration. Still the struggle continues and is now directed against Ecovital’s hazardous waste incineration in Sarzedo, which has impaired the local community and provoked protests.


Establishing incineration as the solution to the waste problem has been a repeated proposal across Brazil and has provoked strong opposition by civil society and in particular the wastepickers movement. Minas Gerais has been on the front lines of this struggle and in 2014 became Brazil’s first state to prohibit the incineration of urban solid waste by law. However, this could be  undermined by a new legislative project brought forward by the private economic sector. In addition, certain incineration projects are nevertheless taking place and are causing controversy. One of these projects is the burning of hazardous industrial waste by the company Ecovital in the municipality of Sarzedo.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Wastepickers and residents of Sarzedo struggle against incinerators, Minas Gerais, Brazil
State or province:Minas Gerais
Location of conflict:Sarzedo
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Urban development conflicts
Waste privatisation conflicts / waste-picker access to waste
Chemical industries
Specific commodities:Industrial waste
Domestic municipal waste
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Ecovital Central de Gerenciamento Ambiental specializes in the incineration of toxic waste and belongs to the Grupo Queiroz Galvão. It has about 40 employees in Sarzedo and uses industrial facilities that formerly belonged to the company Ecobras. [8][15] According to Ecovital, it will burn 3,000 tons of toxic waste from Rhodia; about 300 tons per year. [1] However, other sources claim that the company even planned to transfer up to 33,000 tons to Sarzedo. [14]

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Project area:4.1 ha
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:several thousand
Start of the conflict:2013
Company names or state enterprises:Ecovital Central de Gerenciamento Ambiental (EcoVital) from Brazil - Operates incinerator in Sarzedo
Rhodia from France - Its toxic waste, accumulated between the 1960s and 1990s, is now burnt in Minas Gerais
Relevant government actors:Public Ministry
Municipality of Sarzado
Secretaria de Estado de Meio Ambiente e Desenvolvimento Sustentável (SEMAD)
Comissão de Meio Ambiente e Desenvolvimento Sustentável da Assembleia Legislativa de Minas Gerais (ALMG)
Conselho Estadual de Política Ambiental (Copam)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Movimento SOS Sarzedo
Coalizão Anti-Incineração e em Defesa da Coleta Seletiva
Fórum Municipal Lixo e Cidadania de Belo Horizonte (FMLC-BH)
Centro de Documentação Eloy Ferreira da Silva (CEDEFES)
Comissão Pastoral da Terra Minas Gerais (CPT)
Observatório da Reciclagem Inclusiva e Solidária (ORIS)
Movimento Nacional dos Catadores de Materiais Recicláveis (MNCR)
Associação de Combate aos Poluentes (ACPO)
Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA)
Instituto Nenuca de Desenvolvimento Sustentável (INSEA)
Sindicato dos Trabalhadores em Telecomunicações de Minas Gerais (Sinttel)
Movimento Nacional do Povo da Rua (MNPR)
Pastoral Nacional do Povo da Rua (PNPR)
Centro Nacional de Defesa de Direitos Humanos da População em Situação de Rua e Catadores de Materiais Recicláveis (CNDDH)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Industrial workers
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
Development of alternative proposals
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Other Health impacts
Potential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Other environmental related diseases, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Other Health impactsRespiratory and gastrointestinal diseases, blemishes on the skin, etc.
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Violations of human rights
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (undecided)
New legislation
Under negotiation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project temporarily suspended
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:While the ban on solid waste incineration was certainly a success for civil society and the wastepickers movement, the struggle against incineration and for holding and enforcing the established rights seems to be ongoing. In Sarzedo, protests and public pressure have forced the company to stop the burning of two substances. However, there seem to be still concerns about public monitoring and the incineration of industrial waste is continuing, and an extension of the license for ten more years likely.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[11] ACPO (2019): Dossiê “Caso Rhodia”.
[click to view]

[2] MNCR (2017): Lei contra a Incineração esta preservada em Minas Gerais. 26.05.2017. Online, last access 28.08.2019.
[click to view]

[3] MNCR (2013): MG: Campanha pela aprovação do PL contra a incineração. 15.07.2013. Online, last access 28.08.2019.
[click to view]

[6] MNCR (2014): Belo Horizonte contra a incineração de lixo. 20.02.2014. Online, last access 28.08.2019.
[click to view]

[7] Tampieri, G. (2014): Minas diz não à incineração e dá exemplo ao Brasil. Agência EnvolVerde Jornalismo, 16.12.2014. Online, last access 28.08.2019.
[click to view]

[8] Portal Mídia NINJA (2019): Rodeados de lixo tóxico, moradores de Sarzedo denunciam instalação de empresa de incineração. Article by Frei Gilvander Moreira and Comissão Pastoral da Terra, 24.07.2019. Online, last access 28.08.2019.
[click to view]

[9] cedefes (2019): Basta de incineração de resíduos tóxicos em Sarzedo, MG, pela empresa ECOVITAL. 05.07.2019. Online, last access 28.08.2019.
[click to view]

[10] AMDA (2016): Comissão de Meio Ambiente da ALMG vai discutir incineração de lixo tóxico em Sarzedo. 17.02.2016. Online, last access 28.08.2019.
[click to view]

[12] ALMG (2016): População se opõe à queima de resíduos tóxicos em Sarzedo. 29.02.2016. Online, last access 28.08.2019.
[click to view]

[13] ALMG (2019): População de Sarzedo exige fechamento da EcoVital. 09.07.2019. Online, last access 28.08.2019.
[click to view]

[14] Dotta, R. (2016): "Caravana tóxica" com destino a Sarzedo. Brasil de Fato, 07.03.2016. Online, last access 28.08.2019.
[click to view]

[15] SOS Sarzedo (2019): Home – Facebook. Online, last access 28.08.2019.
[click to view]

[16] AMDA (2016): Recebimento de lixo tóxico em Sarzedo está suspenso. 21.02.2016. Online, last access 28.08.2019.
[click to view]

Environmental license permission from 2014
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Facebook campaign of SOS Sarzedo
[click to view]

Video: "SOS SARZEDO! Incineração de resíduos tóxicos aqui, não!/ Fora, ECOVITAL! Vídeo 1. 03/7/2019"
[click to view]

Video: SOS SARZEDO! Incineração de resíduos tóxicos aqui, não!/ Fora, ECOVITAL! Vídeo 1. 03/7/2019
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:EnvJustice Project (MS)
Last update25/09/2019
Conflict ID:4719
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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