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L I XO N O B R E
DOES THE CLOSURE OF JARDIM GRAMACHO PRESENTS NE W OPPORTUNITIES TO THE WORKING COMMUNITY IN THE LAN DFILL?
Imagining Brazil in History and in Culture (29333) Prof. James N. Green Lior Krengel, 300915709
Finally. in accomplishing their goals. I will conclude that although theoretically the Catadores should benefit of the decision. In reality. a governmental act.Introduction: After 34 years of functioning as Latin America's largest landfill. Rio de Janeiro's Jardim Gramacho closed up in June 3rd. The closure of Jardim Gramacho. This might be an opportunity for better work and life conditions as well as social inclusion. Then. the "pickers of recyclable material" who are better known as "Catadores". it can be interpreted as an act that actually cause harm to this group of people. In this essay. This decision has a main and direct effect on two forces: the image of the city of Rio de Janeiro and the working community in the landfill. no real practical opportunity is being offered by the Municipality. emphasizing and deepening social inequalities in Rio de Janeiro's society. I will first describe the process of transformation and change that the Catadores have been leading and going through in the last decade. On the other hand. this is only true for the very short term and only for some of them. I will briefly mention the city's motivation to close the site. 2012. who have been going through a process of change in the last decade. Most 2 . I will also present the compensation that the Municipality is offering to the Catadores. I attempt to determine whether the closure of Jardim Gramacho is a beneficial or harmful act for the workers in the landfill. I will discuss whether this is an opportunity or a not for this community. seems on one hand to be assisting the Catardores.
Ibid. As a result. to keep the site opened when this was suggested lately. a clear perimeter was set to the site. Until its closure. fires erupted often. 1. legally speaking.1 Back in 1978. Jardim Gramacho: In 1978.stopped covering deposited waste with a layer of soil. Pg 26-27. 80% of Rio de Janeiro's municipalities' waste arrived at the site. the loss of the Catadores' communal identity as a result of Jardim Gramacho's closure is priceless. it was not a sufficient excuse. Jardim Gramacho: Diagnóstico Social. Brazilian law designated that the waste disposal site in Jardim Gramacho is not a sanitary landfill but a controlled landfill. COMLURB Rio's waste management company . The landfill received daily 9. COMLURB sub-contracted another company to recuperate the site.700 people worked at the place. waste was covered daily and pipes would burn off methane gas. During the 1980's. During the day. Nevertheless. better known as "Jardim Gramacho". 1 Comunidade COEP.000 tons of trash. as the site was not initially lined. There is no precise data regarding the activity at the site during the night but a similar number is estimated. Since there was no piping system that would trap and burn off methane gas from beneath the surface. Rio de Janeiro: iBase. 2 3 . While this title was good enough back then.2 In 1996. no system was implanted in order to prevent leachate of the toxic waste from contaminating the ground water. the city of Rio de Janeiro began unloading waste into a site called "Metropolitan Landfill of Gramacho". Pg 15-17. (2005).importantly.
for the first time. Until then. the national organization MNCR (Movimento Nacional dos Catadores de Matérias Reciclaveis) was funded. the word "catadores" means "collectors".While 1996 can be seen as a turning point from an environmental aspect. which was supposed to also improve the work conditions along with the environmental setting. the organization also gave to the workers. COMLURB. an act that led to a formal registration of the workers. They were no longer only individuals working in the same area. This local activity surely added to the Catadores sense of community. but a community of people. In 2004. Along with its great legal importance. only took care of a very small portion of the workers. as well as maintaining the Catadores informed of the process. It is a shortened form 3 Ibid. pg 25-30.3 The foundation of MNCR was an inspirational act for some of Jardim Gramacho's workers. 4 . the year of 2004 is without a doubt a milestone in terms of the human organization of Jardim Gramacho. Another aspect that has improved over the years was the workers' selfperception. which eventually founded a workers' association called ACAMJG (Associação dos Catadores do Aterro Metropolitano de Jardim Gramacho). the workers in Jardim Gramacho had no organization that would represent their voice. Its first efforts were in preventing this action. The association was founded with the first rumors on the closure of Jardim Gramacho. assuring in this way that certain criteria would be met. the sense of an organized work. sharing common rights and obligations. Literally.
The word "catadores" avoids derogatory terms commonly used such as "scavenger". the term "catadores" has evolved historically and can vary in different parts of Brazil. depending on the market in recyclables. Rhode Island. Race in Contemporary Brazil. University of Brown. At the very beginning. United State of America: The Pennsylvania State University Press. As the image of the Catadores began improving. During that period. Millar gives the example of the global economic crisis in 2008.5 Piza and Rosemberg describe in their article when referring to color classification. the Catadores were called xepeiros. many people of the general public in Brazil continue to refer to Catadores as "'catadores de lixo" ("collectors of garbage").. that "the historical and social contexts (. the price of cardboard dropped rapidly over the course of three weeks from 5 Millar Kathleen M. Providence. Reclaiming the Discarded: The Politics of Labor and Everyday Life on Rio's Garbage Dump. "garbage picker" and "rag picker". which is the term adopted and promoted by the MNCR4 and by many catadores. Pg 16-17. (1999). (2011). 5 . depending on historical moments. These categories are quite flexible. as well as context. Rosemberg Fúlvia.) are reflected in the terms used. Color in the Brazilian Census. the terminology used to describe their work has improved too.."6 Similarly. a degrading term for a beggar or someone who does peculiar jobs. due to some actions that I'll refer to in the next sections.of "catadores de matéria reciclável ("collectors of recyclable material"). However. In Reichmann Rebecca. 6 Piza Edith. Catadores in Jardim Gramcho call the objects that they collect "material" and distinguish it from the category of "garbage". Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Pg 37.
Lucy. & Walker. Aynsley. It also proves that their job is beyond a simple separation and organization of garbage.7 This example also shows how much the Catadores understand their work as an act of recovering what is valuable from the core of waste. cardboard was no longer "material" and became "garbage". 6 . And so. Jardim Gramacho functioning has improved along the years. strongly differentiating them from the materials that they deal with on a daily basis. One important example of that would the documentary film "Waste Land"8 by Vick Muniz that tells the life story of the Catadores in Jardim Gramacho and brings the whole world's awareness to it. This understanding does not allow the term "garbage collecting" to be used any longer. it actually requires specific skills and learning process. Muniz successfully present the Catadores as human beings with dignity. (2012). United States.. As I attempted to show in this section.Pg 18. Another motivational force that should not be left out is the exposure and increasing awareness of the Brazilian and International public of the Jardim Gramacho.20 cents a kilo to 7 cents. The price became so low that no scrap dealer in Jardim Gramacho was willing to buy cardboard. The Closure of Jardim Gramacho by Rio de Janeiro's Municipality: 7 8 Millar. The changes in the organizational structure of the landfill have also led to an improvement in the self-image of the workers in the site. ibid. Waste Land [Documentary film]. Agnus.
for the next 14 years. While there is no doubt of the potential environmental benefits of the closure. It also comes as the city is preparing to host the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament and the 2016 Olympics.Jardim Gramacho's closure was postponed several times. The fund will also provide for classes if workers 7 . less clear is what will happen to the Catadores who worked in the area. The sludge from the decomposing trash will be treated and turned into recycled water. and was slated to finally take place just weeks before the United Nations' Rio+20 mega-conference on sustainable development.600 workers. The closure of the site is an attempt of setting an environmental example: substituting an untreated open facility for a modern waste treatment plant. According to the city of Rio. the cooperative and city officials negotiated more than $11 million as severance to be split among those workers who could prove they had been working at the site for the last few years. paid by the company responsible for the harvesting of the methane gas. The landfill will eventually be turned into a park. The petroleum company Petroobras will purchase the gas and use it to run one of its refineries. is being paid to more than 1. provide funding for projects to educate the workers and provide them with tools to continue working on the field of recycling. The severance. the dump will be transformed into a vast facility that will harness the greenhouse gases generated by the rotting rubbish and turn them into fuel. According to the plan. The cooperative has also set up a fund that will.
2012. from http://edition. Rio de Janeiro's Mayor. He also defined it as a changing lives´ decision.10 According to the plan described earlier. sometimes a change that seems to be promising in the 'Macro' level is not as favorable when examined in the 'Micro' 9 Blore (2012. On paper. CNN. it does appear to be a life changing action. 10 Brocchetto.html 8 . While they acquire new skills for a better future. June 5). it covers both environmental and social important issues. has referred to the closure as an end to "the crime that Rio has committed for the last forty years".9 Discussion: Opportunity or Damage? In theory. The closing of Gramacho. O Globo. Latin-America's largest landfill. 2012. Retrieved July 27. the closure of Jardim Gramacho seems like a well-planned action.want to pursue another trade or career. Retrieved July 27. it is crucial to understand what exactly the potential of the change is. Finally. New opportunities are offered to the Catadores.com/2012/06/05/world/americas/brazil-landfill-closure/index. Eduardo Paes. Ansari. it is not as clear as it seems to be whether this change is truly for better. leaves garbage pickers with an uncertain future. a fine amount of money will be transferred to ensure survival. Since a lower life standard in this case usually means the most severe poverty. part of the proceeds from the methane sales will be dedicated to rehabilitating the 'favelas' around the landfill. May 30).cnn. (2012. Landfill's closure changing lives in Rio. As the history of Brazil has shown before. However. They will finally have a chance to work in safe conditions and will no longer be exposed to diseases on a daily basis.
in my opinion.000 Reais a month.700 are meeting these initial criteria. only registered workers are included in this project and out of 3. the people at the bottom of the Brazilian social pyramid will actually be harmed? When closely examining the profile of the Catadores in Jardim Gramacho. a professional course is not realistically a relevant option. Although many of the Catadores would earn just about the monthly minimum wage of 600 Reais. These workers have managed earning up to 3. only about half of the Catadores in Jardim Gramacho will receive any of the above. For them. For those who have been working in Jardim Gramacho for decades. Many have been working in the field for decades and lack the basic skills required for a learning process. the Catadores must open a bank account. once again. Most of them do not primary school education and cannot read or write. a few months are simply not sufficient. The acquiring of a new profession is still possible. 9 . As already mentioned. it all "sounds good". however the process should be more gradual and longer than what a one-time payment of 14. the money offered is a ticking clock. Furthermore.000 Reais allows. As a plan. The real question is whether the people who work in Jardim Gramacho today can really benefit out of it or perhaps.000 workers – only 1. it is notable that in most cases. in order to receive the compensation. many others have become professional in the collection of recyclable material. A task that may seem simple becomes harder when remembering the rate of illiteracy among this community.level. providing them only with a few months to become acclimatized to their new life. sometimes already as a second generation. Finally and perhaps most importantly.
The presentation of Rio de Janeiro's Mayer of Jardim Gramacho as a crime is perhaps a good starting point in understanding the resemblance. This community was not only separated from society.Vick Muniz refers in the beginning of his documentary to the Catadores in Jardim Gramacho as "the type of individuals that are in Brazilian society not different than the garbage itself". When the city of Rio claims to assist and facilitate this procedure but doesn’t necessarily accomplish this statement. Perhaps some actions were taken to show outwardly that a thoughtful process was implanted. 01 . while in fact no real attempt for social inclusion was really made. the whole idea of social inclusion becomes less and less realistic and achievable. I found myself inevitably comparing this local case study to what I already know about the abolition of Slavery in Brazil. as should happen now with the closure of the landfill. Conclusion: Loss of Identity While studying the case of Jardim Gramacho. Although these two events happen in very different scales. some similarities are salient. This comment is particularly important when discussing the integration of these people into the Brazilian society. it was excluded of it. The abolition of Slavery in Brazil was also officially announced one day. This fact emphasizes the extent to which the process of integration is potentially hard. When a human phenomenon is addressed in such vague terms. it can't at the same time be considerate enough in its approach towards the individuals involved.
Another important factor is the psychological consequences of the closure of the landfill. As Millar puts it. although painful. The organized work. the people in Jardim Gramacho created their own social acceptance. pg 145-146. only thousands of people are directly affected by what is presented to be an opportunity for them and in reality is a great uncertainty if not a true life risk. a liberating force. their work also became more and more valuable and practically an expertise. the workers in Jardim Gramacho have gone through a bonding process over the last decade. 11 Millar. the loss of the communal identity that is caused by the closure of the landfill is perhaps the worst implication of all. their work became. and grew up into a community.In the case of Jardim Gramacho. Due to the combination of geographical and social exclusion. the changes in terminology and the Media involvement have resulted in a better and stronger communal self-esteem. As mentioned earlier. ibid. 00 . To me.11 As the collection of recyclable material became trendy over the years.
Retrieved July 27.abril. Waste Land [Documentary film].globo. from http://rioonwatch. Retrieved July 27. from http://veja. (2005). Rio closes its massive Jardim Gramacho dump.org/?p=4032 Comunidade COEP. Latin-America's largest landfill. Rio de Janeiro: iBase. from http://finance. 2012. & Walker. Ansari Azadeh. (2012). 2012. Rio Watch.cnn. Felicity.com/2012/06/05/world/americas/brazil-landfillclosure/index.br/noticia/brasil/lixao-de-jardim-gramacho-efechado-no-rio-de-janeiro Aynsley.com/rio-20-conference2012/the-closing-of-gramacho-latin-americas-largest-landfill-leaves-garbage-pickerswith-an-uncertain-future-5066307 Brocchetto Marilia. Retrieved July 27. 2012. (2012. Barchfield.Bibliography Agencia Estado (2012. Waste land pickers struggles from landfill closure. June 3). Agnus. O Globo. Lixão de Jardim Gramacho é fechado no Rio de Janeiro. Jardim Gramacho: Diagnóstico Social. (2012.yahoo. Landfill's closure changing lives in Rio. June 1). CNN. 02 .com. from http://oglobo. 2012. Retrieved July 27. Yahoo!. United States. 2012. Jenny. June 21). (2012. June 5).html Clarke.html Blore Shawn (2012. The closing of Gramacho. Veja. Lucy. from http://edition. leaves garbage pickers with an uncertain future.com/news/rio-closes-massive-jardim-gramachodump-172017234--finance. Retrieved July 27. May 30).
Rio de Janeiro. Millar Kathleen M. Rhode Island. (1999). Cad. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. 03 . trabalho e saúde: um estudo de caso com catadores em um aterro metropolitano no Rio de Janeiro. University of Brown. Rosemberg Fúlvia. United State of America: The Pennsylvania State University Press. De Souza Porto. (2011). Saúde Pública. Marcelo Firpo. In Reichmann Rebecca. Piza Edith. Reclaiming the Discarded: The Politics of Labor and Everyday Life on Rio's Garbage Dump. Lixo. Providence. Color in the Brazilian Census. Race in Contemporary Brazil. (2004). Brasil.
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