Monday, September 12, 2011

Brazil Factory Recycles Empty Toothpaste Tubes into Useful Products

Brazil Factory Recycles Empty Toothpaste Tubes into Useful Products

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A small factory in Brazil's northeast is squeezing new life out of spent toothpaste tubes by turning them into furniture and roof tiles. One of the beneficiaries is a local school where the children are learning that regular brushing is not only good for the teeth, but can also help the environment.

Children attending the Instituto Negromonte elementary school in Olinda, Northeastern Brazil, are sitting on what were once toothpaste tubes.

Workers in a small factory on the outskirts of town are turning otherwise useless packaging into chairs, desks, roof tiles and other furniture and construction materials.

This translates to less waste being thrown away at dumps.

The tubes made of plastic and aluminum are crushed and mixed with resins at high temperatures to create light and very resistant boards and sheets that can be used in many ways.

Roof tiles are the factory's most popular products. Each one is made from about a thousand small tubes.

[Sebastiao Rufina Barbosa, Factory Owner]:
"There is an interesting ecological feature. If I used wood, I would be taking it from forests and would not replace it. Here I am using what would be considered garbage. The forest is thanking me and, in the same time, we are using an environment friendly material."

The small plant lies in the outskirts of the historic city of Olinda, near the Pernambuco state capital of Recife. Every month, it churns out around 40,000 roof tiles.

[Agnaldo da Costa, Salesman]:
"It's a very good material, very resistant and helps isolate heat. During rainy seasons, other materials let too much noise in while this one doesn't."

The elementary school is also a big fan of the recycled material. Barbosa says school desks made of recycled tubes are easier to clean and last longer than the regular ones made of wood.

[Sebastiao Rufina Barbosa, Factory Owner]:
"I came up with the idea of making chairs because children, for example, wet their pants, spill sodas and schools find it hard to clean them. With this material, they can clean the chairs daily. It is a very resistant material that does not absorb any water. In comparison with plastic laminate and wood, its durability is almost infinite."

School director Maria de Lourdes Negro Monte plans to buy more school desks for all classrooms. She says education officials across the country should follow her example.

[Maria de Lourdes Negro Monte, School Director]
"We think it is very interesting and we need all authorities to see the way we are reusing things that would be thrown away, disposed. This is what we need to do to contribute to save the environment."

Other types of furniture and car bodies are in the owner's future plans.

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