MTV Pimps Cars, Brazil Pimps Trash Carts, Linda Poon, 2015
1. The carts that garbage pickers wheel down the streets of Sao Paulo
2. often look as if they came from the Museum of Funky Art. Colorful cartoon
3. faces — with bulging eyes, flared nostrils and thick lips — peer from the
4. sides of the metal and wooden carts.
5. Then there are the messages spray-painted in Portuguese: "My cart doesn't
6. pollute." Or: "If corrupted politicians were recyclable, they would be worth
7. less than cardboard."
8. The carts are the work of Mundano, a 28-year-old Brazilian street artist who
9. started a movement called Pimp My Carroca back in 2012. The movement
10. borrows its name from MTV's hit show Pimp My Ride. But instead of fixing up
11. old cars, he and fellow artists in Brazil repair trash carts, or carrocas, and then
12. customize them with eye-popping art. Mundano himself has made over more
13. than 200 trash carts since 2007.
14. That's his way of thanking the roughly 1 million waste scavengers in Brazil for
15. recycling the country's garbage. In a TED Talk in October, Mundano called them
16. "invisible superheroes."
17. Brazil generates more than 200,000 tons of trash a day. About two-thirds gets
18. dumped into open landfills. Only about a third gets recycled — mainly by waste
19. scavengers, according to the Brazilian recycling organization CEMPRE.
20. Catadores — as they're called in Brazil — collect and sell recyclable materials
21. that others throw out: cardboard, scrap metal, soda bottles. And they can haul
22. away more than 50,000 tons of recyclable waste each day.
23. "I can't imagine Sao Paulo without their work," Mundano tells Goats and Soda.
24. "Here, we don't have a good [trash] system from the city hall so Sao Paulo would
25. be much more dirty."
26. Yet it's a thankless job, in Brazil and around the globe. Most of the world's 15 million
27. waste scavengers operate with no help from businesses or the government. In many
28. countries, like Mexico, scavenging is illegal, says Martin Medina, author of World's
29. Scavengers: Salvaging for Sustainable Consumption and Production.
30. "Once people put their waste on the curbside, it's considered to belong to the city,"
31. Medina says. A scavenger can be arrested or forced to pay a fine or bribe.
32. By contrast, Brazil's federal government actually hires some groups of scavengers. But
33. local authorities are slow — sometimes even unwilling — to embrace the catadores,
34. Medina says. They often fail to see that these trash pickers not only clean up the city
35. but can save the country billions of dollars by recycling materials that would otherwise
36. be thrown away.
37. Without data on the benefits of catadores, he says, local leaders aren't likely to change
38. their minds.
39. That's why street artist Mundano is aiming at the hearts and minds of residents. Many of
40. them consider waste pickers to be nuisances. "People don't see them, almost as if they
41. are invisible," he says. "[The communities] don't look at these people; they don't say
42. 'good morning' or 'thank you.'"
43. With spray cans in hand, Mundano set out to change that attitude, starting with his own city.
44. "When the carrocas are new and colorful, with funny messages, people started to interact,"
45. he says. "One day they are completely invisible and the next day people are like, 'Whoa!
46. Nice cart, can I take a picture?'"
47. He hopes the next step is for residents to ask the waste pickers to stop by and collect
48. recyclable materials from their homes.
49. What started as a one-man project soon turned into the Pimp My Carroca movement. Twice
50. a year, dozens of volunteers in Brazil donate their time and money to catadores passing by.
51. Mechanics and artists renovate the raggedy trash carts. Eye doctors, psychologists and
52. massage therapists tend to the pickers. Veterinarians examine their dogs. The catadores are
53. also given safety gear: bright shirts so they're more visible at night, mirrors to see oncoming
54. traffic, gloves, raincoats and glasses.
55. Mundano is more than happy to continue painting — even if it can be hard for him to catch a
56. break. "I'm always in trouble [now that] they've found me," he says. "They'll ask me, 'Oh paint
57. it again! I want this message now.'"
58. But he's happy to keep on pimping their carts.
Poon, Linda. "MTV Pimps Cars, Brazil Pimps Trash Carts." Goats and Soda: STORIES OF LIFE IN A CHANGING WORLD. NPR.org, 17 Jan. 2015. Web. 24 Mar. 2016.
What contradictory problem do garbage pickers face?