Franchie Viaud, Staff Writer
It is hard to imagine that recycling could be considered a sort of mutiny against the government. That is the case in certain countries, though, where it is illegal to pick up trash from street corners. Once recyclables such as cardboard, scrap metal and soda bottles are at the curb, they belong to the country. This calls for the help of catadores, as they’re called in Brazil, the scavengers who collect and sell the recyclables scattered about the streets. But instead of being rewarded for their efforts, their hard work usually goes unnoticed.
Catadores receive little to no help in most countries, despite the fact that their ventures save the government millions of dollars on picking up trash that would have been improperly disposed of otherwise. Catadores collect 90 percent of waste that gets recycled in Brazil.
Catadores are often ignored and looked down upon as inferior people in menial or lesser positions in society. In Brazil, however, the government employs the scavengers in their attempt to help clean up São Paulo, a city that lacks proper environmental services and sanitation practices. Local authorities, though, are generally unwilling to accept the catadores. They are either ignorant of all the good their efforts bring to the country, or reluctant to concede that their intentions make any notable difference. Authorities instead choose to regard the catadores as nuisances, who are swatted at by most who pass them on the street.
The treatment of the Brazilian scavengers urged 28-year-old Brazilian street artist Mundano to start a movement called “Pimp my Carroça” back in 2012, paying homage to the popular MTV show “Pimp My Ride.” Mundano took his art to the streets, so to speak, by painting bright pictures along with funny and thought-provoking quotes on the carts the scavengers use to collect recyclables. Brazenly printed across carts, some of the sayings read: “My work is honest, and yours?” and “My cart doesn’t pollute.” Or: “If corrupted politicians were recyclable, they would be worth less than cardboard.”
The attention-grabbing and vibrant pieces make it a bit more difficult for the citizens of São Paulo to disregard the scroungers. “When the carroças are new and colorful, with funny messages, people started to interact,” Mundano told NPR in a Jan. 17 article. “One day they are completely invisible and the next day people are like, ‘Whoa! Nice cart, can I take a picture?’”
In his own way, Mundano is thanking the one million scavengers in Brazil for salvaging and reprocessing the country’s garbage. Through continued efforts, Mundano hopes to spread even greater awareness about the underappreciated scavengers and garner the admiration and reinforcement they deserve.