Cláudio Vinicius Trigueiro Vidal
Fellow Since 1992
Instituto Oficina de Papel
This description of Cláudio Vinicius Trigueiro Vidal's work was prepared when Cláudio Vinicius Trigueiro Vidal was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1992.
Claudio Vinicius Trigueiro Vidal is an engineer from the northeastern state of Bahia who is devising new solutions to Brazil's failure to manage and make intelligent use of waste.
The New Idea
Not wasting the huge volume of valuable materials considered waste, from organic materials to metals, is an obvious, simple idea. Brazil's scavengers have long recognized its economic sense. However, their very direct response leaves many other attractive opportunities untouched.Claudio plans to create both a central referral point and a network that will help communities, businesses, environmental and local groups, educators, the press, and the public to understand waste management potential and provide aid in developing such programs. The network will help them plan and launch appropriate recycling programs as well as help them sort through the formidable array of approaches and technologies. In addition, it will find dependable experts and connect them where possible with others in the country with relevant experience. As it grows and matures, it will also provide more direct advice and support materials.Claudio believes that each success will breed further successes, once businesses and governments can see the tangible examples of economic and environmental benefits of recycling; once they can talk to practical men and women who have the same responsibilities and perspectives that they do and hear that recycling is both responsible and profitable, serious reforms will begin."I believe that when a person participates directly in the experience of recycling, they begin to understand the problems of urban sanitation in their community," Claudio says. "It opens a door in which they perceive not only the harmful aspects caused by deficiencies in the system, but also that they too are partly responsible for the state of things."
Huge quantities of valuable material are being wasted--a needless cost Brazil can ill afford. Moreover, all this unused material imposes yet more costs, both hidden and apparent. It must be collected and put somewhere, and in many cases does serious harm to the environment. To the degree society seeks to avoid these costs, public beauty and health suffer.Although many other parts of the world have learned how to recycle large portions of their wastes, much of this knowledge remains all but unknown in Brazil. The skills required to plan, install, and operate such systems are even less available.Much of the public also has yet to consciously come to grips with its own and its neighborhoods' relationships with waste, let alone with society's and public policy's.However, the process has begun and is being helped by the more general and growing concern for the environment.
Claudio's recycling center will provide the technical information necessary for others to start their own programs. It will also document the experience of recycling projects in operation around the world and make their knowledge available in Portuguese in Brazil. Further, if, for instance, a company wants to start using recycled paper or other such products, Claudio's center will provide information on contacts and suppliers. He plans to organize a statewide symposium on recycling and urban sanitation. Claudio is also completing a technical manual to orient small cities on methods of waste management.More complex approaches are needed as well, since the opportunities and needs vary radically on a community to community, case by case basis. Energy recovery, composting, and a wide variety of other forms of recycling require technology, and large-scale and diverse legal and financial supports.On the second front, Claudio will work to awaken public opinion. He wants people to understand the value of garbage, to feel responsible for the trash they produce, and ultimately to press for the larger scale reforms his center and network will support.To advance his second objective, Claudio will continue and seek to expand a series of community workshops, particularly for children, that produce high-quality paper from garbage. The very simplicity (and low cost) of this process, and the broad usefulness and quality of the paper it produces, make Claudio's central messages quickly apparent to all those who become involved. Meanwhile, Claudio continues to work to expand his "People's Paper" program to help spread the recycling message throughout the state of Bahia and Brazil. He will also continue to promote community workshops and to give speeches on recycling.
By the time he was a student of civil engineering, Claudio knew he wanted to bring recycling to Brazil. Shortly after graduating, he arranged to study this field in Belgium.While there, he expanded his technical knowledge and visited recycling programs across Europe. Seeing these large, successful programs left him confident that his vision would ultimately work for Brazil.Back in Bahia, he joined the state's Department of Sanitation, LIMPURB, and began seeking openings for his alternative view for the field. His cautious chiefs finally backed a very small, low-cost paper recycling test. He not only made it work and turned it into a community model, but also publicized and spread it, and made it a political plus for LIMPURB and its officers. He called it "O Papel da Gente," a name with a double meaning in Portuguese--"the People's Paper" and "the People's Role."He encouraged schools and others to take up this simple recycling demonstration. One such workshop produces Christmas cards on this recycled paper with its high-quality feel. LIMPURB now produces all its stationery, envelopes, and business cards on Claudio's recycled stock.His time with LIMPURB has helped him understand the human and institutional dimensions of the challenge he has taken on. Having added this to his technical knowledge, he is ready to continue his contribution to developing a more efficient, environmentally, and economically sustainable society.