I Got Trashed In Brazil

In the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo rubbish is an opportunity, a livelihood. It’s a second chance...

With a population of 22 million people, Sao Paulo is the second biggest metropolitan area in the Americas after Mexico City so, as you can imagine, they produce a lot of rubbish.

It was an insanely hot day in January 2016 when I visited the Revira Volta ‘Turn Around’ Recycling Centre. Me and my cohorts were given a tour of the small warehouse by a man named Rene Gonclaves, who works for an organisation supported by Christian Aid called Gaspar Garcia.

It’s a muggy working environment with the sun beating down on the wiggly tin roof but it's also surprisingly organised and, dare I say, clean. Sure, there’s that vague ‘bin’ smell lingering in the air - stale alcohol, a whiff of rotting vegetation and something metallic lingering at the end but it’s organised and impressively set up.

The vast tonnage of waste which passes through this place hardly has time to ferment it’s sorted so quickly. Plastic, metals and cardboard are separated from food waste and cleaned and packaged by hand before being pressed in a huge hydraulic machine and shipped out to the next stage of recycling. This second stage happens elsewhere, in a government funded centre, but it’s here at Revira Volta that the real graft takes place.

And making it all happen is a gaggle of no more than 15 people at one time, huddled in their various sections, diligently carrying out their tasks.

What each of them has in common is that they were, until recently, living on the streets.

It transpires that there are more than 100,000 homeless people living on the streets of Sao Paulo. The Turn Around Centre provides workshops, medical advice, legal assistance and support to obtain work permits for its staff, made up entirely of homeless workers.

What an insanely good model of sustainable development! Where a need meets a need, there’s a solution, so long as there’s a will to make it happen.

Shout out to Gaspar Garcia, a small organisation in a big city, making a huge difference in the lives of Sao Paulo’s downtrodden and disheartened. We’re all entitled to a second chance and they’re making it happen.

Never has the saying “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure” taken on so much meaning. And there's a lot to go around...