Luís Martins, Portugal – 13 years old
The ‘Jornada Principal, environmental association, promises to intensify the protests against the landfill in Sobrado, in the municipality of Valongo. The movement will spread black flags throughout the parish in the coming days. It is another action to fight what they consider to be “an attack on public health and human rights”.
“Whenever we can, we have drawn the attention of the central power to take action. The landfill does not respect the legally established norms of distance with the population”, explains Marisol Marques, spokeswoman for the environmentalist association.
She guarantees that the population of the parish of Sobrado will “continue to mourn” because it has not been heard by the executive. “The Minister of the Environment has made “deaf ears”, she adds.
The association, which guarantees to be the “voice and face” of the local population, has several reports of insect pests. Recently, two babies were stung and had to go to hospital. “It is an attack on public health, the environment and human rights,” said Marisol Marques.
“The fact that we’re on the edge of the landfill doesn’t cause just one problem, but several: from seagulls feasting on waste and then coming into our waters and vegetables, to the possibility of contamination of the groundwater and the intense smells”, warns the environmentalist.
The Garbage Business
Waste treatment is a worldwide business, where importers are the ones who generate profit. The idea that exporting waste reduces costs, removes responsibility and favors the achievement of European targets for the environmental footprint of each country.
In 2019, the value per cubic meter of waste for landfill in Sobrado was 9.90 euros. Marisol Marques reports that recently the waste import tax was increased to 22 euros. “It’s not ideal and it would have been better if it had been much higher,” she explains, reminding us that the average European value is between 80 and 100 euros.
This is why the export of waste to countries with lower treatment rates, such as Portugal, becomes attractive and profitable.
The company that manages the Sobrado landfill is Recivalongo, which saw its permits renewed after public consultation, even under challenge from the City Council itself.
Marisol Marques is a resident of Sobrado and confesses that he has already considered leaving the house where he lives: “there is a day when it becomes unbearable, and then we think, either we sell what we have, go away and abandon our roots, our house, our people, or else we do something to fight against this scourge.”
The environmentalist ended up deciding to create the “civic and nonpartisan” movement, which in the social networks is called “United by the End of the Landfill in the Municipality of Valongo”. “The people decided to resist and organize themselves to defend what is rightfully theirs”, she adds.
The demands have the support of local government, according to Marisol Marques: “We have met with the municipality, and we have made a partnership, which is unique at national level. The town council has been on our side, in a 100% support and with a transparency that is healthy”.
As for the government, the opinion of the spokesperson for the association is not the same: “Our problem was not taken into account, we asked for meetings with the Minister of the Environment, we asked him to visit the landfill, but what is certain is that it was of no use. A cosmetic operation has been carried out and, as the people say, it is covering the sun with the sieve’.
The people of Sobrado ask the rulers to “do what is expected of them and what they were elected to do”. “It is inhuman to let the people of Sobrado live in half walls with a landfill, let our children and people get sick,” concludes Marisol Marques.
The environmentalist goes further adding that “Living near a landfill is something that doesn’t go through my mind.
The Evil Needed
The Valongo landfill receives waste from all over the country, but is also one of 11 sites in Portugal that are licensed by the government to receive and treat waste from abroad.
The spokeswoman for the environmental association has issued a challenge to all Portuguese: “We have to wake up because there may not be a tomorrow”.
In 2019, the National Institute of Statistics calculated that each inhabitant produced 1.4 kilograms of waste per day. What is not treated will end up in landfills.
Portugal has to reduce 65% of the waste produced by 2020, but last year’s figures don’t point in that direction. The 2019 report shows that there was a 3% increase, compared to 2017, in the disposal of urban waste in landfills.
Interviewee: Marisol Marques, spokesman for the environmental association “Jornada Principal”.
Público, (21/12/2019). Portugueses produzem uma média de 508 quilogramas de lixo por ano. [Acessed at 20/03/2020]. Available at: https://www.publico.pt/2019/12/21/sociedade/noticia/portugueses-produzem-media-508-quilogramas-lixo-ano-1898149
Eurosat, (11/12/2019). Estatísticas sobre resíduos. [Acessed at 15/03/2020]. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php?title=Waste_statistics/pt
Público, (21/12/2019). Empresa Recivalongo reavaliada na segunda-feira após processos de contraordenação. [Acessed at 20/03/2020]. Available at: https://www.publico.pt/2020/02/09/local/noticia/empresa-recivalongo-reavaliada-segundafeira-apos-processos-contraordenacao-1903437