Recycling in Venezuela


Recycling, Venezuela style: Kids burn plastic insulation off of copper wires at the Los Teques landfill in order to sell the copper to recyclers, 2008.

Recycling is hard to come by in Venezuela.

Owens-Illinois used to do some glass recycling, but that didn’t save them from being expropriated.

There are some fly-by-night paper recycling efforts that send poor teenagers out to rifle through the trash of law firms and government ministries, pulling all the office paper. But I’ve never been sure how the economics of that project works — are they getting paid for paper pulp or for personal data?

The country has a state-owned aluminum recycling plant at the Alcasa mill in Ciudad Guayana, but the only aluminum fed into the huge gas furnace is waste aluminum from Alcasa and nearby Venalum. There is apparently some small amount of aluminum recycling, but as far as I can tell the waste metal is shipped out of the country to be melted down.

And plastics? It was quite amusing when I once chased a Reuters reporter as he approached the vice-minister of hydrocarbons, thinking he was going to ask about a long-delayed joint venture with Braskem or some other big chemical plant. Instead, he asked when Venezuela was going to use its extensive chemicals industry to start recycling plastics. The vice-minister seemed more amused than interested by the idea.

The one thing that gets recycled in Venezuela is news. Are you wondering why I haven’t written about the arrival of the Songa Petrosaudi Saturn in Venezuelan waters to drill the Mariscal Sucre gas fields? Yeah, it’s basically that I wrote it up three months ago (how time flies when ships are trudging across the Atlantic). Next news is when the rig builds a well, and after that who cares until gas starts arriving on shore.

Are you wondering why I didn’t write up President Hugo Chavez’s comment that Venezuela would “soon” start drilling offshore fields in Cuba? PDVSA Vice President Eulogio del Pino told me the same thing when Paraguay President-Elect Fernando Lugo visited Venezuela. Was that really June of 2008? Why yes it was. I recall that “soon” was the very word he used. Maybe I’m remembering wrong. Maybe he was talking about the 3-d seismic exploration. But I am pretty sure we were talking about drilling. And now it’s almost 2011.

Anyway, it’s all just rationalization. You want to know the real reason why I haven’t been writing much? It’s now spring here in Chile. There’s a great book fair in town, I just built a lot of furniture, and I’ve been wrapped up in what is certainly the most important story in South America.


3 thoughts on “Recycling in Venezuela

  1. lgg

    To be honest, anything we Venezuelans can get back from Cuba (besides doctors) is a plus. Even if it’s dubious Cuban oil.

    And I always wondered why we were so close to Cuba but never asked something like this in return. So I feel served with this.

  2. Kepler

    Venezuela’s environment record is bad. Thanks God there are not so many Venezuelans per square kilometre, really.We have stringent laws and nothing more. The thing is we are consuming XXI stuff and using paleolithic or – in best case scenario- Middle Age methods of waste disposal. You have certainly seen how most Venezuelans throw away glass and plastic bottles
    in the wild in the same way as their ancestors were throwing away olive seeds in Ancient Iberia or maize stems in Carib territory.
    Take Guásima, the largest landfill in Carabobo. It is just big but the same thing or better than others. There companies and private people get rid of almost all of their rubbish, including all kinds of plastics, batteries, glass and so on. There is little interest in changing things because it requires organizational skills, money and it would destroy the little “income” source of thousands upon thousands of scavangers big and small: beggars, children, mafiosi-like companies loading glass and batteries to process up to Colombia.
    They burn, burn, the pollution goes to the underground waters of the Valencia Basin or to the air of the whole municipio and beyond.

    I have been writing some thoughts on this for some time already:

  3. ladybug

    So you made it your job to try to break arevenca.
    What is your gain? Of all in the world you pick out one person you don’t know and bash??
    Are you getting money for this?
    What proof do you have? Did you see any documents from the “nigerians” or did you see any court documents. Did you see a mug shot?
    What is your personal gain?
    Are you aware you can be sued? So you better start looking for proof.

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