Estrutural Dumpsite Success for #CloseDumpsites Campaign : Largest Open Dump in Latin America Finally Closed

ISWA Estrutural Dumpsite brasil waste landfill

Located around 20 km from the Esplanade of the Ministries, the heart of the Brazilian national government, the Estrutural Dumpsite is next to one of the most important environmental preservation areas of the Cerrado biome, the National Park of Brasilia.

Brasília is the federal capital of Brazil and seat of the Federal District, holding the main bodies of the country’s national government (Presidency, Congress and Ministries). The city is located in the country's mid-west region. It is a planned city and was founded on 21 April 1960, to serve as the new national capital. Brasília and its metropolitan area are estimated to be Brazil's 3rd most populous city, with more than 3 million inhabitants and the highest GDP per capita among Latin American cities, reaching R$61,915 ($19,000) per year.

The Brasília dumpsite was located in the Sector of Industry and Supplies (SCIA) - Estrutural neighbourhood and, according to governmental research, had a population estimated at 39,015 inhabitants in 2015. The neighbourhood started asan ‘invasion’, with people attracted to the garbage dump in search of a means of survival. Over the decades, several attempts to remove the illegal occupation have been unsuccessful.

According to data from the SLU/Serviço de Limpeza Urbana (Brasília Waste Authority), from 2009 to 2017, at least 47 accidents were registered. They range from burns to more serious cases, such as those involving a truck tipping over, trampling and death.

However, the doors of the Estrutural Dumpsite have now been locked by the governor of Brasília, who defined the moment as a civilizational leap for Brasilia and for the country, and pointed out that the measure, taken correctly, complies with the National Solid Waste Policy.

With 201 hectares, the equivalent of about 280 football fields, the open dump was the largest in Latin America. In 2016, 830,055 tonnes of household waste were disposed of on the site.

The total quantity of waste deposited at the dumpsite is estimated by the SLU to have been approximately 40 million tonnes since the 1960s, when the region of Estrutural began to be used for that purpose.

"The closure of the Estrutural dumpsite was achieved thanks to the personal commitment of Governor Rollemberg and fully supported by ISWA through the Roadmap for Closing Waste Dumpsites and the related global campaign, which has generated a technical cooperation agreement between the international association, the national member in Brazil and the Government of the Federal District", explains Carlos Silva Filho, ISWA Vice President and CEO of ABRELPE, ISWA’s National Member in Brazil.

From now on, the old dumpsite will be restricted to receiving only construction and demolition wastes, which are inert. The waste pickers will work in sorting sheds rented by the government of Brasília and be better equipped to separate and recover the materials.

Paid Employment

Around 1200 pickers will receive temporary financial compensation of R$360.75, a payment of up to R$350 per tonne of sorted waste, and the amount received for the sale of recyclable material.

According to government estimates, this will give an average of R$1200 to R$1400 of compensation to those working on average four or five hours, five days a week.

In addition, 900 waste pickers are hired to act as agents of environmental citizenship and awareness. They will act as disseminators of information on environmental and sustainable management and education and are entitled to a monthly grant of R$300. The measure aims to create more favourable conditions for separate collection.

Governor Rollemberg says, "I am sure that we are taking a civilizing leap, a civilizational leap from a social point of view, removing human beings, the pickers, from an unworthy condition of survival, where they disputed their survival with dogs, with vultures in the dump, and who are now going to work with personal protective equipment, with bathrooms, in the shade, with treadmills, with forklifts, with just and adequate remuneration. They will work as citizens."

Transition from the old dumpsite

Since the closure of the Estrutural Dumpsite, the SLU began to cover the area. This was done in three steps. First, household waste was scattered, then compacted, and finally covered with debris and soil. The employees of the outsourced company that operates the open dump worked on a 4-hectare site where recyclable waste pickers were previously operating.

The cover is around 50 cm thick. In addition to reducing the amount of leachate and the presence of animals and birds including vultures, it helps to concentrate most of the gases in the approximately 300 vertical ducts installed in the dumpsite.

After the coverage work was completed, the area of the Estrutural dumpsite began to receive construction waste in January this year. Only registered carriers can deposit it at site. On the first day, 129 trucks from of 57 companies left 1448 tonnes of debris.

As of 15 March, the government will begin charging for the final disposal of waste in the area of the old dumpsite. There are two different rates per tonne, which apply depending on whether the materials are mixed with other wastes or not - R$26.91 and R$14.68, respectively.

"[The Estutural Dumpsite] has reigned sovereign for decades in the capital of the largest country in the South American continent and now ends its polluting activities. From now on, a new period shall begin for the recovery of the social and environmental damages caused by it,” said Kátia Campos, president of SLU.

Brasília Landfill

Located between the cities of Samambaia and Ceilândia, the space comes into full operation after the closure of the Estrutural dumpsite.

Designed to receive 8.13 million tonnes of waste, the new landfill has a total area of 760,000 m², of which 320,000 m² are reserved to receive the discharged materials. The first stage has 110,000 m² and is divided into four grounding cells.

The disposal of waste in the landfill is preceded by a series of precautions, with several layers that have the role of avoiding the contamination of the water table.

The deepest has 1.25 metres of compacted soil. On top, there is a high-density polyethylene layer. These two parts prevent the leachate from reaching the soil. The surface layer, with 50 centimetres of soil, is the one that receives the waste and protects the HDPE from possible damage.

Beneath these layers are groundwater drains, which prevent ruptures caused by the pressure of this liquid. Another technique is the daily compaction of waste, which reduces the volume and prevents the proliferation of animals, such as rodents and buzzards.