Be it whichever city in Latin America, it’s quite probable you’ve already come across one of them… They carry a cart (in Portuguese “carroça”), in which they collect garbage that they later recycle in exchange for a reimbursement (and usually their work isn’t well seen). They are the garbage pickers.
Such “extra official” activity is commonly connected with marginality and holds a low status in society. However, in cities where the recycling system isn’t efficient, their role is fundamental and necessary. For example, in the city of São Paulo alone, 17.000 tons of garbage are generated per day, and only 1% is recycled; 90% of this recycled material is collected by them, making what they do an activity of great environmental and social importance.
With the intention of recognizing this work, and increasing the level of social consciousness about such an informal profession, Brazilian artist Mundano created the project “Pimp My Carroça” (a play on words with the popular MTV show “Pimp My Ride”)
The 26 year-old graffiti artist spent several years pimping actual rides throughout Brazil, and eventually decided to create the artistic and social project “Pimp My Carroça.” The project became reality thanks to collective financing, since all money was collected online through the portal Catarse (a Brazilian version of Kickstarter). You can watch the campaign video here.
The project took place in the month of June in São Paulo. During the day, more than 50 artists and volunteers worked non-stop. The cartloads went through a ‘pitstop,” where the pimping happened, and were provided with security signals, mirrors, hunks, and artistic customization. During the process, the garbage pickers and their families went through a medical and ophthalmologic check-up, along with getting massages, haircuts, meals and psychological therapy. At the end of the day, a demonstration took place in the center of the city, invoking public powers to recognize, create and maintain recycling cooperatives.
Mundano recognizes that even though this kind of initiative doesn’t bring a definite solution to the problem, at least the project tries to bring more security and visibility to these workers.
Do I believe this is a dignified work? My answer is no. Not because of the work itself, but because of the conditions in which they work. However, I’m convinced that through initiatives like this, which denounce and honor the work of these people, their rights and conditions can be improved. At the end of day, they are the environmental agents of our cities.
Check out the documentary that shows the activities that happened during that day, and for more information, you can check out the project’s website.