Last Saturday, the Say HI to Sustainability Brazil-team organized a trash pickup event along the north-end of the Paranoá Lake in Brasilia. Brasilia as a city is generally very clean, and it is rare to see much garbage on the streets, thanks to the city´s street swipers. Thus, finding a spot for our trash pickup event proved to be quite a challenge. It was Thomas who finally, on one of his many bike-rides around the city, stumbled upon an area along the shore of the beautiful Paranoá Lake that was full of trash. It could look as if the trash had been washed up by the water, and most of the trash looked old – probably several years old. Furthermore, most of the waste was plastic, which we all know have fatal consequences for the environment and that takes from 10 to 400 years to decompose (www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/01/10/stark-truth-long-plastic-footprint-will-last-planet/).
In Brasilia, there are both formal (those contracted by the local government) and informal waste pickers (those that work for themselves, and usually live amongst the waste they collect). There is money to gain from selling waste to private companies in Brasilia – and both the formal and informal waste pickers sell their waste (divided into categories like bottles, plastic, paper, glass, etc.) by the kilo to these companies. On our way to work every day, we bike by some of the informal waste pickers, so we decided to stop and talk to them and ask if they would be interested in the trash we were to pick up during the event. The waste pickers gave us a heartfelt welcome and offered us coffee, even though they live out of a rundown caravan, or do not have a place to live at all. They were also very interested in receiving the trash we were to collect. In addition to this, we gained some insight into how difficult life can be for these waste pickers. One lady we talked to told us that just a few days before our visit, people from the government had been there and destroyed their entire camp. Fences were put up to prohibit the waste pickers from living where they used to live, and we were shown how the waste pickers had gotten their livelihoods destroyed without any warning, their improvised houses and bathrooms cleared out, and their belongings destroyed. This was done in order to force the waste pickers out, and they had to find somewhere else to live. Like the lady said herself; “there is no work for us, so we try to make a living from picking waste. Then they [the government] take or home and or things from us and we have to start all over again”. This experience left us thoughtful and a bit sad, but more motivated than ever to pick up trash that we could donate to these waste pickers so that they could make some money.
Motivating people to spend their Saturday morning picking up trash under the burning Brazilian sun proved to be somewhat of a challenge, but we managed to gather a group of friends, colleagues and other contacts who eagerly picked up trash with us. Together, we collected many big bags of trash, and helped to make the shore by the lake cleaner, we helped the nature (like the Brazilians say; “a natureza agradece” – “nature says thank you”), and we helped the waste pickers earn some money by donating separated waste. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday if you ask us!
Once again, we would like to thank everyone that helped us out this Saturday, and a special thanks to our friend Israel, manager of the HI hostel Hostelplan (http://hostelplan.com.br/). Israel was one of the first people to show up for our event, and he got there well prepared with gloves and plastic bags. In addition to this, he got açaí (a sweet Brazilian ice-cream-ish dish made from a berry from the amazon) for all of us – which was a perfect snack after some hours of waste picking in the sun. When we were done picking up waste, Israel helped us transport all the waste to the waste pickers in his truck – obrigadão amigo!
We are quite happy with our first trash pickup event, and we will for sure make other similar events both here in Brasilia and when we travel to other parts of Brazil. Now – what about you guys? Is there a need for a trash pickup event where you live or in the vicinity? Can you help organizing a trash pickup event with some friends, family and/or colleagues? Or, if you like jogging – can you join the plogging trend (picking up trash while you run – so you get both exercise and you help the environment! 🙂 )? If you prefer walking, you can of course do that instead and still get both exercise and a good conscience!
Do you have other suggestions on how to make your city/town/forest cleaner and more sustainable? Get in touch with us through the information provided here on our webpage, or send us a message on Instagram (www.instagram.com/sayhitosustainability/). Have a sustainable week folks!
Written by: Ane Omland