Tonight I watched the documentary Waste Land about artist Vik Muniz’s project with the garbage pickers of Brazil’s Jardim Gramacho landfill. This particular landfill is the largest landfill in the world in terms of volume of trash received daily. The ACAMJM (Association of Pickers of Jardim Gramacho) is a group of people who collect recyclable materials out of the landfill and sell it to companies that can use these materials to make products such as tires, buckets and PVC pipes. Muniz is renowned for creating art out of unusual materials. When you combine this artist with this garbage group, you get incredible art out of garbage.
Muniz himself grew up very poor and started this project as a way to "change the lives of a group of people with the same materials they deal with everyday." The work he did was inspiring and he made a direct impact on the community by creating this art and then selling it and giving the money back to the association. But the documentary made me realize how much the way we live and the little things we do (or don’t do) make an impact on people like this and what they are working for as well. A little less directly, but an impact all the same.
One of the ladies in the documentary, Magna, who is a very humble, poor picker as well as a very beautiful and wise woman said, “It’s easy for you to be sitting there at home in front of your television consuming whatever you want and tossing everything in the trash and leaving it out on the street for the garbage truck to take away. But where does that garbage go?” That is a very real statement.
I know that we don’t live near Jardin Gramacho, but the garbage that we put in our trash bins in Portland, Dallas or Waco ends up in a landfill somewhere. We don’t see it every day (or ever), so we don’t think twice about where that garbage goes when it leaves our home. But somewhere it is creating a heap near someone’s home and is a dirty and smelly reality in their life.
Easy solution? Recycle everything that you can! Portland pretty much forces us to reduce our waste by picking up our recycling and compost every week and our trash only every other week. It may sound crazy, but it’s actually doable! Dallas provides an easy way to recycle here. And so does Waco. It may not seem like much, but every plastic bottle or cardboard box that goes into the recycling rather than the garbage really does make a difference for our world and the people living in it.