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Grant Whittington headshot

Island Breaks Ground on Brazil's First Circular Economy

Circular Economy

A picturesque Brazilian island known not only for its stunning coastlines but also its commitment to sustainability is getting even greener. Colorado-based Ball Corporation broke ground this month on a circular economy lab in Fernando de Noronha (pictured above) that expects to recycle 100,000 pounds of aluminum in its first year of operations alone.

The project, named the VADELATA for the Planet Lab, will be Brazil’s first circular economy when it opens its doors in 2022. Environmentalists have been abuzz over the endless possibilities circular economies can create. Instead of approaching resources from a linear perspective - create then use then trash - circular economies take the decades-old, recognizable slogan of reduce, reuse, recycle to the next level. The regenerative, zero-waste product of circular economies is widely seen as a major defense against the rapidly changing climate - it’s no surprise officials are lining up to invest in strategies that can propel the next era of sustainability.

Eliminating the impact of single-use containers

Let’s take VADELATA for the Planet Lab as an example. Fernando de Noronha’s dependence on imports and resources from the mainland of Brazil creates a big environmental footprint for a tiny archipelago. One of those resources that the island currently relies on as an import is aluminum to make important products like aluminum cans. These cans support the popular restaurant industry on Noronha, but the environmental cost is significant. But not for long. The new lab is intended to entirely eliminate the need for any future imports for aluminum beverage packaging.

“The resources within this lab will allow us to create a circular economy that will make a difference in the lives of residents and tourists in Brazil and contribute to a more sustainable planet,” said Fauze Villatoro, Commercial and Sustainability Vice President, Ball Corporation South America. “By building a more innovative and effective way to collect beverage aluminum cans and educating consumers about the importance of recycling, we can help solve the packaging waste crisis."

The massive, 4,300 square-foot facility will have a can drop-off site and a preprocessing station for aluminum cans, where they’ll be cleaned and pressed before being sent off to a local Ball Corporation manufacturing plant and recycling center. There, they’ll be turned into new coils. All proceeds from selling the new coils will be pumped back into the can collection process.

Part of Ball’s commitment to the circular economy is stoking interest and educating students and restaurants on the importance of recycling. The state-of-the-art facility will include conference rooms and exhibition space where tourists and residents can sit in on lectures and learn more about advancing sustainability in their communities.

Noronha is no stranger to paving the way for environmental change in Brazil. In 2019, it became the first locality in the country to ban single-use plastics - a significant and meaningful measure taken by an archipelago surrounded by water given plastics' bad aquatic track record.

The bottom line – the circular economy is a win-win

The circular economy will fuel the beverage packaging industry on the island in a sustainable and profitable manner. It may be the first circular economy seen in Brazil, but in a country rich in resources (for now) but poor in regulation, let’s hope it’s not the last. Fernando de Noronha Mayor Guiherme Rocha agrees.

“This partnership with Ball is an important step to our great sustainability vision for the island,” Rocha said. “The lab brings a concept that needs to be increasingly disseminated across the country and around the world, combining care for the environment and income generation for the local economy.”

Image credit: Ricardo Avelar via Unsplash

Grant Whittington headshot

Based in Atlanta, GA, Grant is a nonprofit professional and freelance writer passionate about affordable housing and finding sustainable approaches to international development. A proud graduate of the University of Maryland, Grant spent four months post-grad living in Armenia where he worked for Habitat for Humanity and the World Food Programme. He enjoys playing trivia with friends but is still seeking his first victory - he ceaselessly blames his friends lack of preparation.

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