Posts Tagged ‘Brazil’

Catadores at the World Cup

Friday, June 27, 2014

Since Iran has been thoroughly eliminated from the competition, and the U.S. has safely passed to the next round, I have through the weekend to watch some good soccer without worrying about the fate of my nations. And that means more time to wonder what happens to all the World Cup trash. This piece on Brazilian catadores sorting tourist trash for recyclable materials warmed by heart.

Even more fascinating, however, is the Pimp My Carroça project, which I discovered via this fabulous CityLab article about street artists making trash cans look like backpacks worn by squat men. From what I can gather, the name translates roughly as “pimp my trash cart” and involves raising the visibility of Brazil’s trash pickers and the challenges they face using creative art projects.


(photo via Metalgassi)

Both the first article and the art collective note that Brazil boasts one of the world’s highest rates of can recycling, thanks in large part to the catadores.

To tell the story of this community, French filmmaker Rémi Pinaud (in collaboration with Pimp My Carroça) hopes to complete his project O Cafofo, or The Castle, a fictional film about a trash picker and his two daughters whose home in a high rise housing project in São Paulo comes under threat when the city starts “cleaning up” to host the World Cup.

You can support the project here.

World Cup Trash

Thursday, June 19, 2014

I love World Cup season. No matter where I am in the world, it brings me joy to find international clusters of people huddled around televisions and to hear multilingual cheers and sporadic honking in the streets. I also love all the colorful news coverage the event sparks, like this amazing story about Japanese fans in Rio sticking around to clean up trash in the stadium after their team lost to Cote D’Ivoire.

Photo via Sportskeeda

Photo via Sportskeeda

I love this story so much. Also, sorry I haven’t posted in a while, much more to come.




Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Brazilian-born, New York-based artist Vik Muniz has set up his latest project in Rio de Janeiro, timed with Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. Appropriately entitled Landscape, Muniz’ new work recreates Rio (the global capital of debate around the environment) entirely out of trash. You probably remember Muniz from the incredible documentary Waste Land.


Photo via the AP

As one whose day job revolves around international development, I was somewhat relieved not to have to go to Rio this week and participate in the organized chaos of assessing the state of sustainable development around the world. Women’s rights, my area of focus, don’t get much prominence on the agenda and I have many dutiful colleagues who trooped down to Latin America to remind world leaders that, as a Guatemalan colleague put it recently, “we can’t achieve sustainable development if women’s lives are unsustainable.”

Anyway, that is to say I was feeling pretty jaded and exhausted by the mere thought of all the hustle and bustle and tedious bureaucracy orbiting around a meeting of this size and pomp. Until I read about this new Vik Muniz endeavor. Suddenly, I’m jealous of all the activists and diplomats packed into conference rooms and pouring over the past twenty years of progress (or lack thereof) on issues of sustainability.  Those bastards get to slip out and visit amazing trash art projects! I wonder what other creative efforts environmentally-minded artists have cooked up for this occasion.

Are you in Rio? Send updates and photos, please!


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Check out this heartwarming story from Brazil. Orismar de Souza was homeless. Over the course of four years, he begged and went hungry to buy the parts he needed and put them together to build his own car, aka the Shrimpmobile. With wheels comes status, so junk parts changed this man’s life.

Photo via Jalopnik

Waste Land, the documentary

Friday, April 1, 2011

I have wanted to see Waste Land — Lucy Walker‘s documentary about Brooklyn-based Brazilian artist Vik Muniz and the huge trash portraits he created outside of Rio with help from local cartadores — for a while now. Somehow, I missed two or three chances to do so while the film screened in New York. Now, though, we all have another chance. Waste Land premiers on the PBS series Independent Lens on April 19th (check local listings). Or you can rent or stream it from Netflix here.

I got an advance review copy a while back and this past week had my friend Lisa over to watch it with me. Lisa is a sociologist who has lived for several years in India researching waste and water issues, which means she has spent a lot of time in dumps and with trash pickers (more on that to come in future posts).

I don’t want to belabor the review here. Short version: see this film. It made me cry. Twice. And I am not someone who cries easily.

The medium-length version: The storyline of Waste Land follows Muniz (via some slightly staged seeming Skype calls) setting up his project and getting others to help him execute his vision: to build large scale portraits of trash pickers using the trash they pick and getting those pickers to help him do it. Most of the film takes place outside of Rio at one of the world’s largest dump sites where you get to know an extremely compelling cast of characters who live and work there including a heartbreakingly young mother and the incredibly charismatic president of the cartadores association, which serves as a labor union and coop for the pickers.

Some interesting things I learned:

  • One, cartadores aren’t trash pickers. They are recyclable materials pickers.
  • Two, plastic is more lucrative to pick than glass according to the cartadores.
  • Three, Vik Muniz’ breakout show was a series of portraits called Sugar Children for which he created images of the children of sugar plantation workers out of sugar.

As an aside, during post-viewing Googleing, I found this story and video on Brazilian picker associations collecting used veggie oil.

Lucy Walker is also the filmmaker behind The Devil’s Playground, a fascinating look at Amish adolescence, which answered many of the burning questions I accumulated about the simple life during my teen years in Central PA. Definitely also worth seeing.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

More on the catadores of Brazil in the Times today as part of this profile of trash artist Vik Muniz—whose amazing trash portraiture is featured in the film Waste Land (which I am still DYING to see).

The trash art of Vik Muniz

Thanks for the tip, Tony.

Carnival trash

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Our Brazilian friend Joana sent us this link to the blog Global Garbage, which has some amazing photos of post-Carnival beach/ocean trash. UPDATE: here’s that link in English (thanks Fabiano!).

via Global Garbage blog

Joana translates that Carnival in Bahia, Brazil this year involved a crowd of two million on the streets (20% tourists from Brazil and abroad) who generated a billion reais ($600 million) in profits and 30 tons of trash. After the party, Catadores de lixo (Brazilian gleaners) collected cans to sell to local recycling companies, some going so far as diving in the ocean to collect the cans that ended up underwater. The source blog, Global Garbage, says and English version is coming soon. Can’t wait! Obrigado, Joana!

More on Brazilian film Waste Land

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Good news. If you didn’t have a chance to catch Lixo extraordinário (Waste Land) or weren’t in New York the one day it was playing last week at MoMA, you may soon have another opportunity. The documentary is scheduled for wide release in October. This description from the Huffington Post makes me even more eager to catch it when it comes to town for real.

via Huffington Post

The most poignant film in [MoMA’s Premiere Brazil film] festival is Waste Land, which documents the Brazilian artist Vick Muniz as he works collaboratively with catadores (garbage pickers) in Jardim Gramacho, the world’s largest landfill, located in Rio de Janeiro. Muniz works with the catadores to produce large scale portraits of the workers. The portraits are composed of the recyclable materials they collect over a three year period. The images are later auctioned and the proceeds go to the workers and the organization that advocates on their behalf.

The journey of their process goes far beyond the traditional scenarios of victims and saviors,Waste Land chronicles the emotional evolution of all the people involved but also challenges the viewer’s perception of their own community, class, and consumption.

Lixo extraordinário (Waste Land)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Attention New Yorkers: As part of its annual festival Premiere Brazil! MoMA will be screening a film called Lixo extraordinário (Waste Land) next Saturday, July 24 @ 2:00 theater 1. Thanks for the tip, Shanti!

Lixo extraordinário (Waste Land)

Check out the provocative description:

2010. Great Britain/Brazil. Directed by Lucy Walker. Co-directed by João Jardim, Karen Harley. This documentary follows celebrated contemporary artist Vik Muniz on an emotional journey to the world’s largest landfill, Jardim Gramacho, outside Rio de Janeiro, and explores his three-year collaboration with the catadores, who inhabit the “trash city” picking recyclables. It tells an immensely powerful story of people at the end of their rope, using art as a means to “recycle” their own lives. In Portuguese; English subtitles. 90 min.

And here’s a trailer off of YouTube:

Galpão das Artes Urbanas

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Thanks to garblogger colleague Keith R.‘s wonderful recommendation, I made a point to visit the Galpão das Artes Urbanas while in Rio over Labor Day weekend—and to take lots and lots of photos of the neat stuff made out of trash by local artists. Apologies for the delayed posting. It’s been a crazy busy fall. The coolest thing about this trash museum/artist work space is that it is run by Rio’s department of sanitation, which supplies the raw materials. Now that’s a creative way to divert the waste stream!


Bottle cap-a-puss

Check out the full album at’s Facebook page. And while you’re at it, become a fan!

PET pouffes

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Keith R. over at The Temas Blog has been periodically updating a series of trash photos of amazing things made from garbage in Latin America. The latest installment features sofas and pouffes made from PET bottles in Brazil as part of  a project called Reciclagem e Cultura or “Recycling and Culture.” Apparently what began as an upcycling (thanks for the shout out, Keith) endeavor blossomed into an income-generating business program.

PET pouffes

PET pouffes

I highly recommend clicking through to read the whole story peppered with photos and video clips, here’s a teaser:

In part to get the waste collection going and get the raw materials they need, and in part to gain community acceptance for their Cooperativa Usina de Reciclagem, [local foundation] Onda Azul offered favela residents an exchange: bring in 75 to 250 empty two-liter PET bottles, and get a chair or pouffe (what some may call a tuffet, hassock or ottoman) made using PET bottles


The program proved so popular that they had to restrict the exchange to one pouffe per household.  Even so, nearly every house in that favela now has one of the so-called pufes ecológicos (“ecological pouffes”).

I’m headed to Rio tomorrow night for vacation. I wonder if I’ll meet anyone with an ecological pouffe!

Update on Brazil returning UK’s trash

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

This just in from Brazil’s Secretariat for Social Communications (SECOM): The hazerdous waste found in Brazil and shipped back to the UK last week may have been labeled as recycling materials, though the containers turned out to hold diapers, animal feed packages and other nastiness. In response, Brazil is envoking international law on the matter. According to Em Questao, SECOM’s online newsletter:

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has asked Brazil’s Permanent Delegation in Geneva to report the traffic of hazardous waste from the UK under the terms of the Basel Convention. On July 23, 2009, Minister Celso Amorim spoke with British Chancellor David Miliband, who said the subject will be given the required attention. Amorim stressed Article 9 of the Convention, which says that the exporter shall bear responsibility for returning the illegal shipment to the country of origin. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of the Environment and IBAMA are still evaluating the need for additional measures.

Return to sender

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Brazil is returning more than 1,400 tons of imported trash back to the UK after discovering the shipments included hazerdous waste. A bunch of Brazilian waste hauling companies may be fined as well. While Brazil allows private companies to import and store trash from other counties, the country maintains strict regulations for toxic waste.

Brazil is not a big rubbish dump of the world,”declared the head of the environmental agency.

I love it when developing countries refuse to take shit (in this case, literally) from more developed countries. In the same way Brazil has told private pharmaceutical companies where they can shove their AIDS drug patents, the environmental agency didn’t flinch before sending 65 crates of blood, syringes, condoms and food waste right back to the UK.

via The Guardian

[In solidarity with this righteous trash policy, I just booked Labor Day weekend in Rio. Ok, ok, full disclosure, my vacation planning had nothing to do with trash and everything to do with sick deals on flights to Brazil. But I’m open to garblogging tips for when I’m there. Any Brazilians in the house?]

Condom couture

Sunday, August 27, 2006

condomdetail2.jpgcondomred.jpgcondompink.jpgcondomdetail.jpgcondomdress.jpg While the world’s AIDS advocates gathered in Toronto last week to discuss new research, technologies and strategies for tackling the epidemic, artist Adriana Bertini of Brazil filled the conference center with some much needed color, humor and fantastical imagination via a spectacular fashion/sculpture series of dresses made from condoms.

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