The problem blends with the transit of migrants who cross the region in search of the American drea...
PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil – The 71,000 liters of alcoholic beverages confiscated by the Federal Revenue Service in Foz do Iguaçu in the state of Paraná in 2010 and 2011are being put to good use.
Instead of being destroyed, they are transformed into alcohol gel and ethanol in a laboratory at the Universidade Estadual do Centro-Oeste (Unicentro), a public university in Guarapuava, Paraná.
In addition to disposing of the beverages in an ecologically correct manner, the partnership provides fuel for five university vehicles. The production process also supplies alcohol gel for Unicentro and the Federal Revenue Service in Paraná.
The raw material comes from a variety of alcoholic beverages, including wine, beer, vodka and liqueur.
Prior to the partnership, confiscated alcohol was emptied into the sewage system and bottles and cans were sent to landfills. Today, Unicentro produces an average of 200 liters of ethanol daily.
“Alcoholic beverages used to be a problem for us. Now, our disposal process is setting an example for others,” says Ivair Luis Hoffmann, a tax inspector and spokesman for the Federal Revenue Service in Foz do Iguaçu. “In addition to reusing the alcohol, the glass and bottle caps are sent to recycling cooperatives.”
Computers, DVDs and cars
Foz do Iguaçu is home to one of the Federal Revenue Service’s largest contraband deposits. An average of R$600,000 (US$300,000) worth of contraband goods are seized daily from smugglers in the Triple Border Area shared by Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina.
A little over a decade ago, all of the seized goods that could not be auctioned or donated were incinerated or disposed of in landfills.
The recycling process put in place by the Federal Revenue Service in Foz do Iguaçu began in 2001 with cigarettes, and gradually included other items, such as DVDs, computers and cars. Today, about 300,000 goods are recycled monthly.
Cigarettes are the most commonly seized item in Foz do Iguaçu. By law, they cannot be donated or auctioned.
In 2001, the Federal Revenue Service entered into an agreement with the Brazilian Association for Combating Counterfeiting (ABCF), which assisted in the installation of machines to destroy cigarettes.
Prior to their agreement, the municipality’s landfill received 18,000 kilograms (39,683 pounds) of cigarettes monthly. Now, the tobacco is used as kindling in ceramic kilns, with environmental monitoring to prevent the emission of pollutants.
“The ceramics factories use this material almost all year round,” Hoffmann says. “This removes the need to burn other materials, such as firewood. In other words, burning crushed cigarettes helps protect the environment since less wood is burned.”
Millions of crushed lighters
Little by little, the Federal Revenue Service in Foz do Iguaçu is becoming increasingly specialized in recycling. There are currently 20 people who work to ensure that materials seized in the region are being reused and recycled.
“The idea is for each regional [Federal Revenue Service] branch to specialize in recycling the products that are most commonly confiscated in their region,” Hoffmann says. “We’re seeking out the most environmentally appropriate alternatives.”
For example, since 2011 products such as lighters and glasses have been crushed and separated using magnets. The metal components are used by industry to manufacture pig iron and the plastic is sent to recycling companies.
Automobiles used for smuggling or narco-trafficking are dismantled and the metal parts are sold to foundries.
Materials that can be reused, such as new tires, are donated to the police, government agencies or Federal Revenue Service.
Charities throughout Brazil also benefit from the program. They receive electronics, kitchenware, clothing and school supplies. They do not pay for the donations, but they are required to use these products or the proceeds from their sale to support their institution, Hoffmann says.
The main focus of the ABCF is reducing the levels of counterfeit products entering Brazil.
In 2011 alone, more than 2,000 operations were carried out by the ABCF in partnership with Brazil’s Federal Revenue Service, Federal Highway Police, and Federal Police, as well as military and civil police forces in every state nationwide.
“Brazil receives approximately US$20 billion in counterfeit goods every year,” says Rodolpho Ramazzini, an attorney specializing in combating fraud and counterfeiting, who also serves as a director of the ABCF. “Approximately 65% of the counterfeit goods circulating in Brazil come from other countries.”
The most commonly counterfeited items, according to the ABCF, are auto parts, cigarettes, fuel, toiletries and clothing.
The partnership between the Federal Revenue Service and the ABCF also includes sharing information and providing support for recycling confiscated goods. Counterfeit clothing and footwear, for example, are donated to charities.
“First, we remove the brand names and labels from each article of clothing,” Ramazzini says. “Then, we give them to charity.”