Brazilian app aims to modernize scavenging sector

Brazilian app aims to modernize scavenging sector

Creators of Cataki believe information can help recyclables collectors boost their earnings.

September 29, 2017
Recycling Today Staff
International Recycling News Nonferrous Paper

The creators of a new app being tested in Sao Paulo say they are hopeful the service it provides can help peddlers and scavengers seeking recyclable materials increase their incomes.

According to a September 2017 online article by London-based The Economist, the app called Cataki was introduced in July 2017 with the intention of “matching people who have [discarded materials or items] with catadores operating in their neighborhoods.” Catadore is the Portuguese term for small peddlers who collect metal, old corrugated containers (OCC) and other recyclables for resale to scrap dealers.

The Economist describes a peddler named Gabriel Cazuza as having a “two-wheeled, metal-framed” cart that he pushes through the streets of Sao Paulo on a nightly basis. The publication describes him as “one of tens of thousands of catadores” in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, and as part of a collective of nearly 400,000 poorer Brazilians who have been engaged in the practice since the 19th century.

In the newly developed Cataki app, peddlers and their carts are tracked as purple icons in a manner similar to how Uber customers see that app’s drivers. The Economist quotes Thiago Mundano, a street artist who helped create Cataki, who says a future version of the app will allow people to upload photos of their discarded materials, and catadores will accept or reject them by swiping right or left—similar to the Tinder dating app.

The article cites a report from earlier this decade by the Brasília-based Insituto de Pesquisa Economico Aplicada (IPEA) which estimated the government of Sao Paulo itself recycles just 300 metric tons out of each 12,000 metric tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) generated each day (2.5 percent).

Catadores, meanwhile, help ensure that some 98 percent of Brazil’s aluminum used beverage containers (UBCs) are recycled, and as a group may collect as much as 80 percent of Sao Paulo’s recycled materials.

Cataki founder Mundano tells The Economist he has high hopes for the app, though so far “just 1,000 householders and 300 catadores have downloaded” it, according to the publication. Potentially, though Mundano says he believes the app could help the estimated 1 percent of the world’s urban population who act as peddlers or scavengers connect to a broader market more efficiently.

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