Clinic in Brazil uses participation in composting program as therapy for its patients.
BioCycle October 2016
These individuals scavenge trash cans for recyclables, with many using their redemption value to buy more drugs. The rehabilitation program views this scavenging as an ability to identify resources (trash from commodities), qualify and quantify, create collection and transportation logistics, and to work in groups in order to achieve their own goals. These are necessary traits that the rehab team uses to assist patients on their lifestyle transformation from destitute to productive.
Composting similarly demonstrates transformation of what most consider a waste into a necessary and valued product. Miranda makes this connection for the clinic’s patients, who then relate it to their rehabilitation and life transformation experience. The SSRTC uses the composting process as “a treatment journey” for its patients. Metaphorically, they experience a rebirth transforming from socially valueless, to valued members of the society through a process that eliminates their “pathogens” and increases their “nutrients” and value in order to become “mature and nutrient-rich.”
Composting At Clinic
Miranda established a small composting facility at the clinic site. Paper, food scraps from grocery stores and yard trimmings from the main floral distributor in the city of São Pedro de Alcântara are composted. The retailers include seven local Angelon Grocery Markets, one from the Bistek Grocery chain, and four Walmart stores. As the program grew, Miranda moved the operation to a larger site, which now composts approximately 2,700 tons/year.
The SSRTC has helped over 1,400 individuals, 98 percent of whom were homeless, since 2011. Seventy-five percent completed the 90-day rehab program, an impressive number. Patients can volunteer to participate in the composting program; there are six openings every month. The composting site has 10 patient-workers: Six patients work directly in the composting process, and four work on related activities, such as helping to package the product. In addition, three volunteers assist in different supportive activities. The remaining patients work on the clinic’s maintenance, vegetable garden and landscape.
Packaged compost is sold to local nurseries and farms; profits are used to support the clinic’s and the composting program’s needs. The Santa Catarina State Grocers Association (Associação Catarinense de Supermercados) has been very supportive of the program. Its members will be selling the product, starting with the Angeloni Grocery Stores group in 2017.
Unfortunately, due to the clinic’s size limitation, the SSRTC can’t keep patients for more than 90 days, and there is a high incidence of patients that relapse. Interestingly, 90 percent of the patients who go back to using drugs return to the clinic and ask to resume their therapy through the composting program. While there isn’t scientific evidence, Miranda and his team believe contact with the soil — the metaphoric comparison between the transformation of organic residuals into rich soil — is a very powerful tool in the patients’ rehabilitation process, and are working to expand the program. The goal is to be able to offer it to more patients and create additional composting jobs.
With the support and partnership of Instituto Lixo Zero (Zero Waste Institute), the SSRTC is also assisting in local organics diversion initiatives and community education and outreach about the benefits of composting. This partnership will have a significant positive social and environmental impact in the region, and hopefully, can be replicated all over the world.
Ana Carvalho, MS, is an Environmental Specialist in San Diego, Board Member of the Zero Waste International Alliance, and member of the San Diego Food Systems Alliance. To learn more about Projeto de Reinserção e Sustentabilidade – Compostagem, contact Edison Jose Miranda email@example.com.