Recycle – Sail the Amazon River with Nestlé and Tetra Pak

The Amazon River (Rio Amazonas) has the largest drainage basin  in the world, about 7,050,000 square kilometres (2,720,000 sq mi), that accounts for approximately one-fifth of the world’s total river flow. In this immense area live people, in Brazil called ribeirinhos (people living close by a river and in general descendants from poor immigrants from the North East who came to the Amazon during the rubber-boom in the 20th century). Due to the vast areas dominated by water, traffic is by canoe, boat, vessel or whatever tends to float on water. The ribeirinhos live harmoniously with nature, survive by fishing and tending their own limited environment.

Only in an emerging market consumer products companies smell new opportunities.

With the slogan “Nestlé Até Você a Bordo” (Nestlé Takes You Onboard), Nestlé Brasil launched the first floating supermarket, a 27.5 meter long vessel, to service the ribeirinhos of the Amazon region. The vessel  started operations on July 1st by leaving the port of Belém, the capital of the federal state of Pará and gateway to the Amazon and was scheduled to pass through 18 municipalities which make up the region of Marajó Island to the city of Almeirim, right in the Baixo Amazonas (Amazon Lowlands) region, and then back to Belém. Nestlé estimate to be able to service a public of 800 thousand people/month, extending the presence of Nestlé brands in the Brazilian (river)homes.

That was the initial commercial project of Nestlé, but along came Tetra Pak Brazil and fortunately a second project was coupled with the first. This one under the slogan: “Embarque nas Ondas da Reciclagem” (Go with the Recycling Wave), aiming to collaborate with the environment and to promote recycling. The project intends to create opportunity for generating income for families in the region by collecting post-consumer packaging waste which will be handed over to cooperatives in the city of Belém.
In this way the “Nestlé Takes You Onboard” floating supermarket now also is a delivery point for selective waste collection.

The local population will receive information material and will be coached how to correctly separate packaging waste, since the action’s goal is to encourage selective collection and the return of the packaging material of the products previously purchased from the floating supermarket.

“We want to make people aware that by embarking on the wave of recycling, they collaborate in decreasing the extraction of natural resources, reduce energy consumption and pollution, contribute to keep the community clean and also generate jobs,” says director of Regionalization of Nestlé Brasil, Alexandre Costa.

Executive Director of Environment for Tetra Pak Brazil, Fernando von Zuben, is excited about the opportunity to guide the population in the North to cooperate with the environment, delivering the waste to recycling.

“Nestlé Takes You Onboard” was implemented as a project to reach remote areas and low income consumers, as well as to support a door-to-door sales system. With the floating supermarket, Nestlé opened one more marketing channel to remote communities in the Northern Region.

Besides the “Embarque nas Ondas da Reciclagem” activity, Tetra Pak also developed the first Brazilian ‘search engine’ to locate a specific point of selective collection and recycling, baptized “Rota da Reciclagem” (Route to Recycling). The search engine points to locations and cooperatives or companies where the consumer can voluntary dispose of recyclable materials and companies connected to the chain of Tetra Pak’s post-consumer recycling.

A beautiful and laudable initiative. However for me living a stone’s throw from Belém, it is laughable and sad at the same time. Oh, I fully agree with the initiative, and I fully agree that the ribeirinhos need coaching to keep their environment clean and healthy. But in Greater-Belém there is no supermarket, not one (and I’m talking about the big sophisticated ones), which has a PEV (ponto de entrega voluntária de coleta seletiva de embalagens para reciclagem – delivery point for selective waste collection) on its premises. Worse, you can’t find in this area with a population of some 2.5 million, one, one PEV. All post-consumer waste goes unsorted in the plastic bags, in which you got your purchases from the supermarket, and ends unsorted on a landfill. Ahh, at least it gives the poorest children scouring the landfills some sort of food and income.

You don’t believe me? I tested the website “Rota da Reciclagem”, gave the search engine my address, and look this is the result. “Você está aqui!”, that’s me. I have to drive some 1,500 km to Fortaleza in the Northeast to find a PEV. Thank you Tetra Pak, you proof my point.

As for Nestlé as well as for Tetra Pak the large supermarkets are their main sales outlets. I think both ‘waste producing’ companies also should have initiated something in the city from which their floating supermarket annex PEV embarked.
They should know, like every Brazilian knows that the slogan: “Keep Brazil Tidy”, isn’t one the authorities have ever heard of.