After 34 years of operation, the Brazilian government has decided to close Rio de Janeiro’s Jardim Gramacho dump, the world’s largest open-air landfill. Located on the outskirts of the city, the dump is to be replaced by a modern recycling plant.

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Jardim Gramacho, also known as ‘Trash Mountain’ has been a sticking point for environmentalists for decades, but it has also been a large employer for the local population.  Over 1,700 people are expected to lose their jobs from the dump closing down. These garbage pickers, or catadores, walk around the landfill manually finding trash that can be recycled.

The facts about Jardim Gramacho are incredible.  The site receives over 9,000 tonnes of rubbish PER DAY and is home to over 20,000 people who build homes out of the trash. However the environmental impact has been huge; rotting trash is responsible for releasing large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, while run-off has been leaking into the sea polluting Rio’s Guanabara Bay. In fact, the dump was created on top of  unstable, ecologically sensitive marshland and for nearly 20 years, functioned with no administration. As such, there was no lining on the massive landfill’s floor to prevent leaks of the toxic waste. It is hoped that the new recycling plant will be able to capture these gases and convert it into fuel.

It is not surprising that the Brazilian government have made this announcement this week. They have been saying they would close the dump, but this month the country is hosting Rio+20, the United Nations conference on the environment. Also, the city is getting ready to host the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament and the 2016 Olympics.

Speaking to BBC News, Brazilian minister Izabella Teixeira said of the decision: “Gramacho will become a reference in sustainable development and an example to be followed by other dumps in Brazil.”

The BBC also reports that those made redundant from the dump’s closure will receive compensation of about 14,000 reais (£4,500; $7,000) and will be retrained.

+ Jardim Gramacho

via USA TodayBBC News

Images: Waste Land