Guest Blog, Carlos Silva Filho on the closure of the largest open dump in Latin America

This is a shortened version of a post by Carlos Silva Filho. To read the full article, look out for the March/April issue of Waste Management World, published at the end of March. Loo


Carlos Silva Filho is the Vice President of ISWA and the President and CEO of ISWA’s National Member in Brazil, ABRELPE.

14 Mar 2018 -

Brasília, the federal capital of Brazil is located in the country's mid-west region. It is a planned city and was founded on April 21, 1960, to serve as the new national capital. 


Last year, ISWA reported the news that the Estrutural dumpsite was to finally close. After almost 60 years of operation, on January 20th, with the presence of the governor of Brasília, this finally became a reality.


The Brasília dumpsite was located in the Sector of Industry and Supplies (SCIA) - Estrutural neighbourhood, and had a population of roughly 39,015 inhabitants according to a governmental research. The area originates from an invasion, with people attracted to the garbage dump in search of means of survival. Over the decades, attempts to withdraw from illegal occupations have all 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. 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 deposit was the largest in Latin America. In 2016, 830,055 tonnes of household waste were disposed off on the site.


The total amount deposited at the dumpsite is estimated by the SLU to be approximately 40 million tonnes of waste in the area since the 1960s, when the region of Estrutural began to be used for that purpose. The highest point of the waste mountain is 55 meters high.


From now on, the old dumpsite will be restricted to receive only construction and demolition waste, which are inert. The recyclable waste pickers will work in sorting sheds rented by the government of Brasília to better equip these workers in the separation and recovery of materials.


About 1,200 pickers will receive temporary financial compensation of R$ 360.75, a payment of up to R$ 350 per ton of sorted waste, plus the amounts received for the sale of recyclable material.


According to the government estimates, this will give an average of R$ 1.2 thousand to R$ 1.4 thousand of compensation to those who worked on average four or five hours, five days a week.


In addition, 900 waste pickers have been hired to act as agents of environmental citizenship and awareness. They are multipliers 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 favorable conditions for separate collection.


Transition from the old Dumpsite

Since the closure of the Estrutural Dumpsite, the SLU began to cover the area. (see picture, left).


This work takes place in three steps. First, household waste is 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 about 50 centimeters thick and, in addition to reducing the amount of leachate and the presence of animals like vultures, 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 ​​Estrutural dumpsite began to receive construction waste on Monday (29/jan). Only registered carriers can deposit it on site. On the first day, 129 trucks, out of 57 companies, left 1,448 tons of debris.


As of March 15, the government will begin charging for final disposal of waste in the area of ​​the old dumpsite. There are two values ​​per ton, which vary if the materials are mixed with other wastes or not - R$ 26.91 and R$ 14.68, respectively.


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 tons of waste, the new Landfill has a total area of 760 thousand m², of which 320 thousand are reserved to receive the discharged materials. The first stage has 110 thousand m² and is divided into four grounding cells.


The waste disposal 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 meters 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 centimeters of land, is the one that receives the waste and protects the HDPE from possible damage.


Beneath all 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.


To read the article in full, make sure to check out the March/April issue of Waste Management World, coming soon.




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