I spent the last two hours at the world’s largest landfill outside of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Let that sink in: the biggest landfill in the world (as measured by the volume of trash received daily). Inconceivable, right?
Well, I wasn’t physically on location, but I was transported through 5 Point Film Festival’s Academy Award-nominated documentary, Waste Land. But I may as well have been knee-deep in garbage, and elbow to elbow with the rest of the “catadores,” or people who pick recyclable materials out of mountain-high heaps of human refuse for a living.
The movie begins with the question,
“Can art change people?”
And its journey leads you into the collaboration with renowned artist, Vik Muniz, and a handful of inspiring catadores as they recreate stunning photographic images of themselves out of garbage. Along the way you get a raw, front seat view into their harsh livelihoods, and eventually can’t help but feel the weight of the constant backdrop of filth, rubbish and trash.
One strong, dignified female trash-picker wanted to know,
“It’s easy for you to sit at home and consume anything you want and the garbage truck will just take it away. But have you ever thought about where your garbage goes?”
Colorful, depressing images of discarded toys, books, jelly shoes, car parts, and Barbies dazzled the screen. These once-loved objects peppered the mounds of garbage bags, dirt, car parts, throw-away containers and cups and I couldn’t help but feel shook up. However, I refreshingly didn’t leave the film overwhelmed. I am inspired to continue to be a champ at always remembering my stainless steal water bottle and reusable coffee mugs. To be better about making To-Go Ware a purse essential. To have a gentle impact on my friends in making simple changes too. To continue to shop at Goodwill and Salvation Army instead of buying brand new clothes, furniture and kitchenware hot off the manufacture line. To compost. And for the love of God, to recycle. (Still confused by what’s recyclable and what’s not? Check out our top 8 recycling tips here.)
No plans tonight? Good. Download Waste Land on Netflix. It’s exactly the opposite of a waste of time, I promise.
Nicole spends her free time in the outdoors via kayak, ski, bike, trail, rope, rock, water and mountain. Although a writer and editor by trade, she ventured out as a sea kayak guide in Alaska, and most recently ski-bummed in Telluride, CO. When she’s not plotting her next big adventure you’ll find her with a Colorado microbrew in hand, a good read or with friends. Nicole has zero tolerance for to-go cups, pickles and complainers, and she challenges you with the question: “How intensely do you wish to exist?”