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December 07, 2020

Recycling projects offer training opportunities for communities in Brazil

Materials that were previously discarded after use became raw material in the hands of community residents close to our operations in Barcarena.

Two women working with wood

Based on the strategy of using solid waste that would have otherwise been discarded in Barcarena, North of Brazil - where the largest Imerys kaolin processing plant in the world is located, the Sustainable Entrepreneurship project has been providing community members with new sources of income and professional training. By working with recycled materials such as pet bottles, tires, milk cartons, glass, fabrics, and now wood pallets - the materials are being used in the production of various types of craft work for reuse in the community.

In 2018, the first initiative to reuse pallets as part of the Sustainable Entrepreneurship project  was launched. The objective was to create items for use in new leisure spaces in the communities close to our operation. With the support of the residents, together with Imerys and suppliers, several improvement actions in the areas took place that provided more options for entertainment activities. The pallets were transformed into benches placed in community gardens that were surrounded by children's toys where citizens could go experience and enjoy them. 

"With the Sustainable Entrepreneurship project, the objective was to disseminate techniques and habits through sustainability and urban agriculture in communities, and offer collaborative activities to raise awareness of responsible and active citizens", adds Flavia Souza, Imerys Community Relations analyst responsible for coordinating the projects at the Barcarena units.

In 2019, it started as a pallet workshop focused on the solidarity economy, where techniques of wood evaluation, cuts, preparation and painting were taught. "Before entering the production of more complex furniture, a whole technical preparation was carried out with a preliminary phase such as the production of educational toys, so that the participants could improve their coordination", explains João Vitor, responsible for the workshops on the sustainable entrepreneurship project.

Through the Community Relations department, pallets are donated to Casa Imerys, the Group's social program that seeks to promote education, quality of life and well-being in the communities. In the last supply of wood pallets by Imerys in September this year, about 150 units were delivered, totaling 1,300 kg of high use wood potential. 
 

Empowered women through access to technical trainings

What stood out from the project is the participation of women over the age of 25 who used to have domestic activity as their main focus. Of the 20 active students, 19 are women who sought this technical training with objectives to generate income for their families through the production and sale of their products. "They are housewives who, in addition to their activities at home, are in search of training. They take on an activity usually considered only for 'men' as the workshop involves manual labor using tools, for the transformation of pallets into furniture", commented Flávia.

I always liked to work with crafts. Today, I feel happy because I have learnt many things thanks to Casa Imerys. The teachers are excellent. Now I am thinking about promoting my work and opening a space to sell the products I make.
Maria Joana
Resident of Vila do Conde

For student Miguelzinha Morão, also from Vila do Conde, this project is providing her with a new apprenticeship, since it is her first time working with handicrafts. "It is undoubtedly something new for me and has become a great experience. I will definitely use the knowledge acquired at Casa Imerys. This activity has helped me to prove to myself that I am capable of moving forward despite difficulties. I can, I want and I will, because I have the disposition and persistence now", she reinforced.

Unfortunately, due to Coronavirus, the pallet workshop was postponed for a few months. However, even in the face of a pandemic and several difficulties, the students of the project did not give up. Theoretical classes have started to be taught online until face-to-face meetings can begin again. Today, Casa Imerys is working in a  reduced capacity and continues to comply with all health and safety protocols.

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