São Paulo launches organic waste handbook for schools

By properly disposing of organic waste, São Paulo’s 1,500 municipal schools can prevent emissions equivalent to 40,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually.

The City of São Paulo has launched a manual designed to encourage schools to separate and recycle organic waste with the aim of reducing both food waste and emissions of greenhouse gases, like methane, from decomposing organic waste.

The Handbook for Schools on Organic Waste Management aims to empower teachers and school directors by providing technical knowledge on organic waste management, including: characteristics, treatment techniques, challenges and benefits. It emphasizes the important role schools play in waste generation and in influencing future generations to manage waste properly.  

The potential for schools to reduce waste and greenhouse gas emissions by source separation, reuse, and recycling of organic waste is high. São Paulo’s 1,500 municipal schools serve 245 million meals, generating 30,000 tons of food waste, every year. Green waste from gardening and grounds maintenance adds another 15,000 tons of organic waste annually. If the 45,000 tons of organic waste are composted locally the city can prevent the equivalent of approximately 40,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions from entering the atmosphere.

At the launch Bruno Covas, Vice Mayor of São Paulo, said the project provided multiple benefits for the city including the building of important partnerships, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, better treatment of solid waste, and the creation of more conscious citizens. Mr Covas hopes that the schools initiative will encourage more schools, in São Paulo, across Brazil, and internationally, to properly manage waste.

“Global warming is an issue that demands the most attention and care, and the contribution of environmental education in schools is important to prepare the next generation of citizens,” Mr Covas, said. “In schools we not only form new citizens, but create the opportunity for them to take home what they’ve learned and teach others how we can live in society, and think about the natural resources that we have to leave for our children and grandchildren."

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The Vice Mayor of São Paulo, Mr. Bruno Covas, speaking at the launch

São Paulo’s Municipal Education Secretary, Alexandre Schneider congratulated the schools taking part saying the experience of helping to develop the materials contributed to making the world a better place.

"We want to bring this experience to the more than 1,500 municipal schools here in São Paulo,” Mr Schneider said. “It is our role to bring the whole process of vigorous environmental education to work on issues related to the environment and sustainability. We want children to be able to learn English, math, Portuguese, but we also want to form citizens with these values ​​we have in our network, which we need to preserve and carry forward."

The publication also features exemplary cases of organic waste management, such as that of EMEI Dona Leopoldina, in Lapa, which has 230 students and generates about 300 kg of organic waste, which is treated and processed into compost to fertilize the local vegetable garden.

Mr Gilberto Natalini, São Paulo’s Secretary of Environment said the handbook will be distributed throughout the city and should have a significant result.

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From left to right: Mr. Edson Tomaz; Mr. Gilberto Natalini; Mr. Alexandre Schneider; Mr. Bruno Covas; Mr. Carlos Silva Filho; Ms. Gabriela Otero

“Solid waste is one of the many environmental and urban challenges of a city, and organic waste is a priority issue that needs to be addressed because it accounts for half the current volume generated and sent to landfills,” Mr Natalini said. “It is our dream, and I am sure that with the help of all, we will move forward and prevent all this material from going to landfills.”

The handbook was developed by the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA), a non-governmental and non-profit organization for the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), whose Municipal Solid Waste Initiative works with cities around the world to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants like methane and black carbon from waste.  Its production is part of the CCAC’s technical assistance to the city, which is implemented by ISWA with local coordination by the Brazilian Association of Public Cleaning and Special Waste Companies (Associação Brasileira das Empresas de Limpeza Pública e Resíduos Especiais or ABRELPE).

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Mr. Alexandre Schneider and Mr. Bruno Covas examine samples of fresh compost and fertiliser produced by schools' compost initiatives

Mr Carlos Silva Filho, President of ABRELPE, and Vice President of ISWA, said the project has been very interesting and ambitious for a city the size of São Paulo.

“The school handbook demonstrates the potential local initiatives can have on climate change by improving organic waste management and composting. The 1,500 municipal schools of São Paulo have the potential to contribute 4% of São Paulo State's 2020 emission reduction target,” Mr Silva Filho said.  “We are very proud of what we have achieved so far and to provide further assistance to São Paulo as part of the CCAC.”

The Handbook for Schools on Organic Waste Management was launched on 18th of April 2017 at the Municipal Secretariat of Education, in São Paulo, Brazil, with participation of around 50 representatives from schools and municipal staff.

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