Gear Tips announced as 2023 UIAA Mountain Protection Award winner

Featured, Mountain Protection, UIAA
Main photo: Paul Kwakkenbos (UIAA Mountain Protection Commission VP), Pedro Lacaz Amaral (CEO & Founder of Gear Tips), Hunsu Arda Odabasioglu (UIAA Mountain Protection Commission), Carolina Adler (UIAA Mountain Protection Commission President)

At a special Award Ceremony held earlier today in Trabzon, Türkiye, the UIAA announced that the Brazilian project Gear Tips Recycling Program became the tenth recipient of the UIAA Mountain Protection Award (MPA).

Gear Tips becomes the second project from South America to win the Award. Earlier in October, Sierra Madre Nature Trail by University of the Philippines Mountaineers was named the 2023 MPA Runner-Up and Repurposing Windfarm Blades by Clare Local Development Company, Ireland claimed the Best New Initiative prize. The MPA Award is partnered by the Bally Peak Outlook Foundation.

A total of 12 international projects operational on four continents were showcased as part of 2023 MPA.

About Gear Tips

In Brazil, nearly two million gas cartridges are sold annually for use in stoves during outdoor activities. Among users, doubts about how and where to correctly dispose of these cartridges when empty are very common. Due to a lack of information and collection points, these cartridges are often disposed of in the common trash, without proper sorting, and thus end up in landfills or local dumps. The organisation Gear Tips created a system to properly collect and recycle cartridges, in an effort to promote sustainable waste management and disposal.

“This is a nifty project that is building a circular approach for managing gas canisters, a hazardous waste disposed of by the outdoor sports community. Whilst the initiative supports outdoor people to help them dispose of empty gas cartridges, at a higher level, the project also contributes to instilling a change in the consumer mindset in the Brazilian outdoor community towards more sustainable choices and behaviour.”
– UIAA Assessment Team

“This is the tenth year anniversary of the UIAA’s Mountain Protection Award. And what a great year it has been. The projects nominated and showcased in 2023 continue to show how many in the climbing community are committed to making positive change in mountains around the world. Once again all of the projects in the running for either the MPA Award or the Best New Initiative offered the project adjudicators “mountains” of amazing ideas and choice. Speaking as an adjudicator myself I can testify to the care, attention, expertise, and reflection we all bring to bear when undertaking our assessments. Speaking as the Chair of the MPA Working Group let me offer a huge thank you to all my assessment team colleagues, UIAA office support, and our sponsor Bally Peak Outlook Foundation. You, along with the MPA nominees, are a crucial part of showing that together we can make a difference when it comes to protecting the world’s mountains. Now, more than ever, mountains matter.”
– Mary Sanseverino, UIAA Mountain Protection Commission and UIAA MPA Assessment Team

Photo credit: Gear Tips

Photo credit: Gear Tips

Shortly ahead of the official presentation, the UIAA spoke to Pedro Lacaz Amaral, CEO & Founder of Gear Tips.

UIAA: How does it feel to have won the 2023 UIAA Mountain Protection Award?

Gear Tips: We are very proud to win the UIAA Mountain Protection Award. I believe that in Brazil people in general are not yet conscious about the different ways we harm the environment, and the focus is to bring back from nature what you brought. However, it is not just bringing back what you take but also the correct disposal of what you bring back. Winning the UIAA MPA will make the Brazilian mountaineering community look at the project with different eyes and hopefully more people will commit to it, from the national federation through to the local mountaineering clubs.

What do you hope winning this international award brings to your project? 

I hope that more people get engaged with the project. As explained in the previous question, we saw that people that should commit were not committed and, winning such an important award, for sure, will make people realise the importance of the project. Now we will ask for the formal support from the CBME (Brazilian Mountain Hiking and Climbing Confederation – UIAA member association) and all the regional federations as well, that way we can have all the mountain clubs engaged and committed. We are also having conversations with the government agency that take care of all state parks in Rio de Janeiro (INEA) and hopefully, with the support from UIAA, we will have more chance to work together with them.

What will you spend the prize money on? 

We must grow the project and the main challenge is the investment in new recycling collectors. Furthermore, we have different places to put the collectors with different individual demands. For example, Decathlon in Brazil is very interested in having the Recycling Program in their shops. However, due to the characteristics of the shops, we are building a different collector. Also, for camping areas, national and state parks, we had built a different model. Therefore, we will use the money to produce more collectors so we can spread the project everywhere in Brazil.

What inspired the creation of your project? How big an issue was waste related to gas cartridges and why? 

As a chemical engineer, I worked in the environmental department of a company. Around 20 years ago, and I implemented a recycling program. When I found out that Brazil alone sells more than two million gas cartridges a year and most of them were not sent to recycling, I decided that something had to be done. However, the main problem was a logistic problem. How to send the cartridges back to the manufacturers or to a recycling facility? I contacted one of the main steel companies in Brazil and they said they could support the program if we would concentrate all gas cartridges in one place, what is impossible due to the logistic cost.

Together with Bruno Negreiros, the Environmental and Social Sustainability Coordinator at Gear Tips, we managed to organise a project in a way that the places where the gas cartridges would be collected also would have the responsibility to take them to a recycling facility near them. Bruno mapped all the recycling facilities close to the collection points to triangulate the process among them. Therefore, logistics were not an issue anymore, although we have to coordinate a lot of people in order for the project to work.

If you are successful in implementing your project throughout Brazil, will you look to expand or share your knowledge and practices with likeminded organisations in other South American countries?

We want to expand the project to all Latin America and, who knows, North America, Europe… the World. But for now, let’s focus on Brazil, make it work, find out the best practices and then we can think about expanding. Since I know several distributors from brands, it might not be so difficult to expand, but we need to concentrate our strengths (human and financial resources) in Brazil. Part of the process is to train people in Leave no Trace principles and make sure people are aware of the impact we cause and what can we to reduce it. Gear Tips is an educational platform and therefore we believe that through outdoor education we can achieve a better world.

What steps are being taken to reduce the reliance on gas cartridges? 

Some people started to use alcohol stoves, especially ultralight trekkers. We see this as a possibility, since Brazil is a huge produced of sugar cane alcohol (including for the car industry) and this is a fuel from a renewable source and, in theory, zero CO2 emission since the sugar cane capture CO2 when growing. However, people still prefer an easy way to use a stove. We also have a few workshops showing the use of alcohol stoves so people can start to understand the benefits. However, it will take a while until people change their mindsets.

Have you been able to establish any relationships with companies making the cartridges to raise awareness with say extra information on product packaging or labelling? 

Yes. Nautika is the biggest gas cartridges manufacturer in Brazil and they will soon start to include in all their cartridges a QR Code referring the Recycling Program. It is an important step to make all the consumers aware of both the problem and solution.

Are there other types of waste in Brazil’s green spaces which you may look at dealing with in the future?  

Human waste is one of the biggest problems in our green spaces. We intend to increase the availability of online content and information on our platform to make people aware of the problems and to try and reduce human waste on trails.

Further Reading

Organisation website
UIAA 2023 MPA Nominee Page

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