Fishers remove over 100 tonnes in Guanabara Bay exceeding initial estimates

Exceeding expectations, the fishers of Ilha do Governador, Rio de Janeiro, have reached the initial target of collecting 100 tonnes of waste from Guanabara Bay in December 2022, in the project run in partnership with Ogyre, an Italian social enterprise focused on recovering waste from the ocean. The second and current phase of the project will end in March this year. How much waste will they have removed from the Bay by then?

Since its start in November 2021, the fishers have removed various types of waste from the sea and the mangroves of the picturesque but highly polluted Guanabara Bay. Daily, 98 tons of waste reach the Bay through the affluent rivers, according to the Brazilian Association of Public Cleaning and Special Waste Companies (Abrelpe, 2022). In the context of severe pollution, it isn’t surprising that the fishers have exceeded their initial target, but it wouldn’t have been possible without their hard work, starting with learning new skills.

“We have reached our target of collecting 100 tonnes of rubbish. Is it hard work? Yes, but it’s worth it, and we see the results. Places we passed through in the mangrove five months ago that had an absurd amount of rubbish, today are clean areas, including crabs returning to inhabit the mangroves. And this is the result of our work on this amazing project that has been presented to us.” Francisco Alves da Silva, a fisherman from Bancários beach.

They have collected and sorted different types of waste and plastic, including mountains of flip-flops to large items such as household appliances, toilet bowls, mattresses, and even sofas bogged down in the mangroves, which are flooded forests extremely important for coastal ecosystems. “A lot still needs to be done as tonnes of waste are still scattered around Guanabara Bay.” Juliana Miranda, BVRio Circular Economy Analyst.

The project supports 25 local families by generating income for the collection of waste from the sea and mangroves, sorting and the correct disposal of waste, including sending part of the recyclable waste for recycling. Pedro Succar, BVRio circular economy specialist, highlighted the substantial social impact of the project, as the fishers can no longer make a living from fishing alone. “The project has been this group’s main source of income.”

Antonio Augeri, Ogyre CEO, explains that the social enterprise has created “A sustainable value chain to collect plastic from the ocean, made possible by fishers and organisations like BVRio, which has experience in international projects and maintains a good relationship with the local communities in which it operates.”

In addition, BVRio facilitates the monitoring of the collection work through the Circular Action waste management app, KOLEKT, where fishers keep track of the volume and monitor the ‘catch’. On the app, the fishers record the material sorted by type, weight and condition; then they can ‘advertise’ through the app and sell to local buyers, in this case, a pre-agreedrecycling cooperative. KOLEKT creates traceability of waste along the whole supply chain and maps all stakeholders involved in the process, allowing more efficient monitoring, validation, verification and certification of waste recovery and recycling against recognised standards.