This week I've been a movie-going fool. Not just any movie - environmental documentaries.
This weekend I saw “Wasteland” at Durham’s Full Frame Film Festival. The movie took place at the largest landfill in the world outside Rio de Janeiro. This movie was similar to Garbage Dreams which was filmed at a landfill in Egypt. The similarity between the two movies was that each landfill had a community of people that lived near it and picked recyclable material from the face of the landfill.
Rio does not have any sort of curbside collection program for recyclables. In Wasteland, the pickers collect 200 tons of recyclables per day from the landfill. The pickers only pick material that has value that day, so as markets change, they pick different material. These folks work day and night picking recyclables from the working face of the landfill. Each picker has to pay $30 (one time fee) for their barrel that they drag around to collect material and get paid about $25/day after selling the recyclables. Rent to live in the community near the landfill is $8/week. It’s quite different than the U.S. living wage.
The 3,000 pickers have an association that helps train them. The movie follows the lives of a couple of the association members. One older gentleman that has worked in garbage for more than 30 years said exactly what I have said so many times, "[O]ne can, bottle, piece of paper can make a difference." However, his slogan was "99 is not 100." Meaning even one piece of recyclable material has value. One woman actually cooked meals for the pickers, from the face of the landfill, using food that was discarded.
In comparing our recyclable collection methods with those from the movie, I can’t really say one is better than the other. I think a merge of the two systems would be perfect. Why don’t we try to pick out recyclable material from the face of landfills in this country? Danger of getting hit by a truck? The smell? The public health concerns? Couldn’t we address these items and find a work-around? I suspect the real reason is that there is money to be made by putting garbage in the ground. We need to show that recycling is more beneficial!
Oh, and I forgot to mention, these real-life characters are just part of the movie. It also follows Vik Muniz, a prominent modern artist. He creates some very wonderful, heartwarming pictures using discarded material from the landfill and helps the pickers see their real potential
If you get a chance to watch this movie, I recommend it. It made me tear up.
We are partnering with the Reuse Alliance to screen another enviro-documentary called “No Impact Man”. Join us on Monday, April 26, at 7 p.m. on N.C. State’s campus, New Jordan Hall, Room 1218 to watch this movie for free.