Preliminary Waste Management and Recycling Plan

By, Amy Jewel (Field Assistant at Planet Drum Foundation)

Municipality of Canton Sucre [versión en español]


The collection and disposal of solid waste is a challenge facing all municipalities. As the number of people living in the cities continues to grow, the amount of waste generated also grows. All of this waste needs to be handled in a responsible manner.

Like many other municipalities, Canton Sucre utilizes a landfill for the disposal of solid waste. Throwing the waste in a landfill serves to move the waste away from the source of generation, and to improve hygiene and health in areas of heavy trash generation. But serious problems remain with the waste, even if it is disposed of in a proper landfill. Furthermore, the landfill currently utilized by Canton Sucre is not placed in a suitable location. Much of the waste is disposed at the top of a hill, which is located near a small creek. When the mud road up the hill is inaccessible, as happens often during the rainy season, the garbage is simply dumped on the hillside. When the rains come, much of the waste easily washes into the nearby water, leading to further pollution downstream, and eventually in Rio Chone.

Rather than continuing these polluting practices, we should prevent the waste from being thrown out in the first place. By reusing or recycling waste, we can achieve a greater efficiency in our usage of resources. The more we recycle, the less we must take from the natural world. In addition, much time, energy, and labor is required to collect and transport waste to the landfill. Just as nothing is wasted in nature, so must we re-learn how to consume without polluting. 

The Planet Drum Foundation recommends that the Municipality adopt a new approach to waste, recognizing that what we dispose of as waste actually consists of valuable resources. When Canton Sucre applies this approach to the fullest extent, then almost all waste will eventually be eliminated. In other words, almost all waste will be reused or recycled in some form or fashion.

This report includes practical recommendations for how the Municipality may begin to collect and recycle more organic waste and paper. Also included are general waste management goals and directions for future research. 

Many other municipalities worldwide have legislated that certain levels of recycling must occur. For example, Berkeley, California legislated that 50% of all household waste had to be recycled. The city has now reached a recycling rate of 80%. The town of Curitiba, Brazil actually buys garbage from its residents. In other words, the waste that we discard consists of valuable resources, if we just take a closer look.

There are three overall recommendations in this report:

— Composting. Organic materials comprise 55% of the volume of the waste stream. Implement on-site composting programs at schools, hotels, and restaurants wherever possible. Implement residential and commercial separation of organic waste, and build a municipal composting facility to process the compost. The city should also compost all the waste that is generated by the municipal maintenance of public lawns, shrubs, and trees. 

— Research. Find uses for plastic, glass, bathroom waste, construction debris, and other materials that do not currently have end-uses for secondary materials. 

— Paper Recycling. There are currently several groups that recycle used paper, and there are local recycling materials brokers that will buy used paper for eventual recycling. Because these outlets for used paper currently exist, the Municipality should expand paper recycling to divert more paper from the landfill for recycling. We recommend that the Municipality require all offices and copy/print shops to separate paper for recycling, and implement weekly recycling drives for residential paper waste. These initiatives could be expanded to include other materials once the end uses for these materials are developed.

Waste Stream Analysis


The waste stream consists of all waste collected, transported, and disposed of by the Municipality. In order to understand the composition of the waste removed by the Municipality, we examined the waste stream, including both residential and commercial waste. The garbage that we observed originated from Bahia Norte, Bahia Sur, El Malecon, and the downtown area of Bahia de Caraquez. Waste compositions varied slightly between various commercial and residential areas, and between some of residential areas. However, the average composition provided below is a fair representation of the entire waste stream of Bahia de Caraquez, with the exception of construction and demolition debris, which is handled by private waste collectors.

Over the course of several days, the waste stream was observed before, during, and after municipal garbage collection. The volume and composition of all waste was visually estimated. Waste that was observed before collection had been left in various receptacles on the street for pickup. Waste that was observed during the collection rounds of the truck was more representative of the waste stream, however, since many residents and businesses bring their waste out to the garbage truck during collection rounds. The composition of waste was also estimated at the municipal landfill.


The following is the average composition of waste generated in Bahia de Caraquez. Again, construction and demolition debris was not included in this analysis:

Waste MaterialPercentage
Organic Material (suitable for composting)55%
Bathroom Waste and Other Miscellaneous Waste14%
Cardboard Boxes10%

Recent Recycling Efforts

A program to separate organic materials from the waste stream for composting was recently revitalized in the central market of Bahia de Caraquez. However, the amount of organic waste that can be diverted from the waste stream through this program is limited. In addition, compostable materials are generated in all parts of the city, including residential areas, business areas, and areas that contain a mixture of both. 

In addition to the program at the market, the municipal garbage workers separate some recyclable materials during collection rounds. Cardboard boxes and glass bottles are both separated and sold by the workers. 

Finally, many residents sell recyclable waste, such as metal and batteries, to local recycling materials brokers. All of these systems may easily be continued, along with our recommendations to implement new recycling programs.

Waste Materials and Recycling Possibilities 

The following is a list of the materials observed in the waste stream, and the possibility of recycling or reusing the materials. Other materials may exist that are not included in this list which may be used in recycling and reuse processes. We note that this list is not totally inclusive, as this is only a preliminary report.

Organic Materials — Approximately 55% of the waste stream collected by the Municipality consists of organic material. We recommend that Canton Sucre prioritize composting as the chief recycling technique due to the large volume of organic waste. Many businesses, schools, and houses could have compost bins on site, and the rest of Canton Sucre will separate organic materials for separate pickup by the Municipality. 

Bathroom Waste — This waste may not be composted due to health concerns. We recommend that the Municipality research other means to recycle bathroom waste.

Cardboard Boxes — As noted above, the majority of all cardboard boxes are currently separated for recycling during the trash collection process. 

Paper — Some paper is currently diverted from the waste stream for recycling by local cooperative groups and businesses. However, much paper is still discarded everyday, most of which consists of newspapers, copy paper, and writing paper. Since paper may easily be recycled by the local groups, and may also be sold to recycling materials brokers, we recommend that the Municipality increase and expand paper recycling efforts.

Plastics and Glass — Some glass (that which may be sold) is separated by Municipal workers during garbage collection. We recommend that the Municipality further research recycling and remanufacturing possibilities for plastics and all glass that is currently not sold. The Municipality should consider local remanufacturing possibilities, such as a way to create plastic thread to be used in fishing nets that are made by local residents. Shredded plastic and crushed glass may be used as insulation in new construction or renovation projects, and may also be added to the cement mixtures used to pave roads and sidewalks.

Construction and Demolition Debris — Although not collected and removed by the Municipality, this material, consisting of scrap wood, broken cement, old insulation, dirt, and various other items, is regularly generated in the Municipality. Our understanding is that the material is removed by private companies and dumped at the landfill. All of it may be reused in new construction projects, as insulation, fill, or in new cement mix. 


On-Site Composting

Due to the large volume of compostable materials in the waste stream, we recommend that the municipality legislate on-site composting for all schools, hotels, and restaurants that generate organic waste. On-site composting can easily operate in institutions by using enclosed composting bins. Bins will ensure that the compost operation does not experience problems with pests or odors, and they also serve to speed the recycling process. Some businesses, such as the restaurants on El Malecon, have limited space for composting bins and may need to share a central composting area. The finished compost would be used in urban public spaces as fertilizer, and to strengthen the soil. The actual details of separation would be dependent on the institution. 

In order to encourage composting programs, the Municipality should take the following actions:

— Provide subsidies on the cost of new recycling bins for the source separation of organic material, i.e. new barrels for organic waste in the school lunchrooms for children and staff to separate their waste.

— Provide subsidies on the cost of materials for the new composting bins.

— Approve an ordinance requiring all schools, hotels, and restaurants to compost on-site. This goal would be reached gradually over a period of several months.

— Appoint a recycling coordinator to implement programs.

Off-Site Composting/Residential and Commercial Source Separation

In addition to on-site composting, we recommend that the Municipality compost all remaining organic waste removed from residences and commercial areas at a facility owned and operated by the Municipality. The public would be required to source separate organics from other materials into clearly marked recycling containers, which may be provided by the Municipality. The Municipal collection schedule would be adjusted so that organics are removed four days per week, and other waste is removed three days per week. 

Because organics make up roughly half of the waste stream, it is feasible that organics could be removed by the waste collection truck four days per week, and all other waste which is not organic and is not currently recyclable be removed on the other days. Collection days would be alternated so that Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, organic waste would be removed, and on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, all other waste would be removed.

This program should be implemented after a long period of public education, lasting at least three months. The garbage collection workers would also be trained to distinguish between organic and inorganic waste, and will not collect the wrong type of waste on the wrong day.

The compost site could consist of enclosed bins, or could consist of open compost piles. The maintenance of the compost could be performed by Municipal workers, ecological volunteers, volunteers from the National Police, and others. 

Paper Recycling

We recommend that paper recycling be expanded as follows: 

Offices and Copy/Print Shops — All offices and copy shops should be required to separate paper. Workers from the local paper recycling cooperative groups will equally divide the sources of paper among themselves, and will collect paper from the offices for recycling.

Residences — We recommend that the public be urged to separate newspapers and other paper for recycling. Once per week, city workers or volunteers will collect papers for recycling. This paper will be sold, and proceeds should benefit either the Municipality, or a nonprofit cause.

Immediate Steps

In order to begin working towards these recommendations, the Municipality should take the following steps:

— Implement on-site composting at one hotel and one restaurant to demonstrate the enclosed composting procedure.

— Implement paper recycling in all offices and copy shops, and begin a weekly paper recycling drive for all residences.

— Identify suitable locations for a new landfill, and a new composting facility (the two could be located in the same area).

— Begin researching possible end uses for glass, plastic, construction and demolition debris, etc.

— Begin planning the eventual transformation of the waste collection system.

— Begin a public education campaign to inform residents of upcoming changes in the waste collection system.

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