Recycling and Education in Curitiba

Curitiba recycling

Recycling and Education in Curitiba


The recycling program in Curitiba is unique, taking care of the city’s people while helping the environment. Curitibanos recycle around 70% of their waste, largely with help from municipal programs that cost no more than the old landfills.

The Green Exchange Program in Curitiba (Cambio Verde) is a city-wide initiative in which recyclables can be exchanged for fresh produce in over 100 exchange sites throughout the city.

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.

The city is cleaner, its people receive food and transportation, programs to benefit students are created, and the exchange programs also create jobs.

The well-being of Curitiba’s schools and children is 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.

Curitiba transforms old buses into mobile schools that teach sustainability. As the city was developing its robust bus network, Curitiba began a project called the Lighthouses of Knowledge (Faróis de Saber); providing education, libraries, and many now provide free internet access.

In 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. 

Unrecyclable, single-use, and unrecycled products are virtually nonexistent in restaurant industries like the fast food industry in Curitiba.

To maintain fields in Curitiba, sheep graze grass, replacing lawnmowers.

The online publication The Greenzine says the following in an article titled “The Most Sustainable City in Latin America

“…sheep are used to cut the grass instead of machines, which reduces oil consumption and helps to provide farmers with vital resources such as wool for clothing…

Another way in which the city is sustainable is its bus rapid transit system, used by 1.3 million people, or 75% of the population, per day, which represents a widespread and affordable public transit system that can mitigate carbon emissions from cars.

Recycling is also a big part of what makes Curitiba so sustainable, with 70% of the city’s trash being recycled. This has been achieved through a program which allows the city’s residents to exchange recyclables for food, notebooks, and bus tokens, which has been widely successful and helped the impoverished in the city by offering necessities and giving incentives to keep the city’s streets clean.

In terms of education, the city is home to the Free University for the Environment which teaches city residents about sustainability for free. Lastly, there is signage and information panels throughout the city which provide citizens with information and help to create a culture of pride in sustainability.”

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Also see:

Green City: Bus System and Urban Planning in Curitiba


Recycling: Global Report Card