Recycling Household Waste in São Paulo

Information on how and where to recycle household waste such as glass, plastic, paper and aluminium in São Paulo. With details on what to do with larger or toxic objects such as batteries, used cooking oil and light bulbs...

Brazil produces approximately 230 million tons of rubbish every day. This equates to every Brazilian generating over 500 grams of rubbish every day. Up to 30 percent of this rubbish is composed of recyclable materials such as plastics, glass, paper and metal cans.

How to Recycle

Plastics (plastico), glass (vidro), paper (papel) and metal (including cans) can be left in separate bags on the pavement or in designated, elevated metal-wire crates on the sidewalks in São Paulo for pick up. Some neighbourhoods have colour-coded bins (red for plastic; green for glass; blue for paper; yellow for metal).

One truck collects food waste and other non-recyclable waste and another collects plastics, glass, paper and metal cans. There are designated collection days, which differ from neighbourhood to neighbourhood.

  • To determine the designated collection days for specific streets: Click here (in Portuguese; Excel file)

The São Paulo Town Hall (Prefeitura da Cidade de São Paulo) has a customer service line - Alô, Limpeza - for suggestions or complaints about municipal sanitation services, including recycling.

Some Brazilians earn money by independently collecting recyclable waste in São Paulo using large wheelbarrows. They take the recyclables to the recycling plants dotted around the city and receive a few dollars a day for their efforts. In São Paulo it is common to find that recyclable material put out for the city collection trucks is collected by these workers before the city collection trucks arrive.

Many grocery stores also provide large recycling bins in which to deposit recycling.

What can be left for curbside recycling

The following waste can be recycled in São Paulo:

  • glass
  • newspapers and magazines
  • paper based cartons
  • aluminium and other metals
  • PVC (polyvinyl chloride)
  • plastics
  • toothpaste tubes

What cannot be left for curbside recycling

The following waste cannot be recycled and should be placed in the trash:

  • tin/aluminium foil
  • glue
  • cellotape
  • fax paper
  • cellophane/plastic wrap
  • photographs
  • porcelain and ceramic materials
  • television tubes
  • light bulbs
  • cables
  • wood
  • polystyrene
  • food waste
Recyclable Items Requiring Special Handling

The following waste should be taken to a depot for safe disposal or recycling:

  • cooking oil
  • fluorescent light bulbs or tubes
  • batteries of any kind

Cooking oil

Throwing cooking oil down the wash basin or on waste land can have very damaging consequences. Cooking oil can cause pipe blockages in the wastewater system and one litre of cooking oil can contaminate one million litres of water. In addition, when cooking oil makes contact with sea water, methane is released into the atmosphere and can contribute to global warming.

The supermarkets Pão de Açúcar, CompreBem and Extra accept used cooking oil for recycling/disposal.

Fluorescent light bulbs

Fluorescent light bulbs should never be thrown away with common rubbish or included with regular recycling as they contain heavy metals. Of particular concern is mercury in the bulbs, found in the form of vapour, which is dangerous if released into the air. If a fluorescent light breaks and the vapour is inhaled it is suggested to seek medical attention.

Fluorescent light bulbs can be taken to the Trampoo Recicla Lampadas facility, which is designated to handle them.

Batteries

There are approximately 1.2 billion batteries produced annually in Brazil, according to the Brazilian Association of Industry Electricity and Electronics (ABINEE). Batteries produced in Brazil since 2000 have only minimum quantities of polluting heavy metals like mercury and zinc, however a problem lies in the estimated 400 million illegal batteries that often contain more toxic material than is permitted. Batteries left in landfills leach heavy metals, which never degrade, into the soil and then into water supplies.

All batteries, including those found in flashlights, radios, remote controls, watches, cell phones, cordless phones, laptops, digital cameras and other portable devices can be taken for free disposal to a Droga Raia chemist or a Banco Real.

  • To find the nearest Droga Raia: Click here
  • For information on the Banco Real battery disposal program: Click here (in Portuguese)
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