The recycling program in Curitiba is unique, taking care of the lower class while helping the environment. Curitibanos recycle over 70% of their garbage, largely with help from municipal programs that cost no more than the old landfills. The city is cleaner, its people have more jobs, and the poor receive food and transportation. The well being of the lower class, schools, and children, are valued as an integral part of the city's programs.
For example, school children bring plastic to school for recycling, from which toys made of recycled plastic are produced in time for holidays for the same children. In Curitiba, schools are required to separate trash for recycling. Residents of Curitiba have been able to bring their waste to neighborhood centers since 1991, where they have exchanged their recyclable garbage for bus tokens and food. In addition, there are exchange centers throughout Curitiba in which schools, teachers, and/or parents, trade recyclable garbage for notebooks.
Curitiba transforms old buses into mobile schools that teach sustainability. As the city was developing its robust bus network, Curitiba also began a project called the lighthouses of knowledge (faróis de saber); providing education, libraries, and many now provide free internet access. ln addition to these faróis de saber, Curitiba's other colleges and universities offer workshops, seminars, courses, conferences, and exhibitions, on urban planning and themes related to sustainability.
Sustainability in Curitiba
Curitiba is exceptionally sustainable in many ways. For example, many fast food restaurants in Curitiba serve food on real plates with real silverware for dine-in customers. Most retail stores in Curitiba sell products made from recycled goods. Unrecyclable, single use, and unrecycled products, are virtually nonexistent in restaurant industries like the fast food industry in Curitiba.
The online publication The Ecologist says the following in an article titled "Curitiba: The Greenest City on Earth"-
"Curitiba's eco-city initiatives began long before the current mandate to clean up cities was born, their phenomenal success a product of a political climate with a humble problem-solving approach, rather than the usual grand-standing."
"By empowering people with access to transportation and meaningful work, Curitiba has created dynamism at its lowest socio-economic rungs, propelling upward mobility and decreasing dependence on government support. Today, Curitiba is one of the most prosperous cities in Latin America; per capita income is 66% higher than the Brasilian average."
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