Rubbish that is no longer rubbish

The community Parque do Gato (the Cat’s park) has faced many changes since it was born as a favela, in 1975. Thanks to the debris of wood and nails left behind by the general São Paulo population, the favela was first spawned and built, before it turned into a dweller’s community in 2004. Now, a reference point for recycling in São Paulo city.

Sao Paulo city has 20,000 Carroceiros

Due to the high level of unemployment in the North and Northeast of Brazil during the 1970’s, São Paulo became the new home for thousands of Nordestinos. With no capital to invest on housing, more and more favelas then spread throughout the city. Parque do Gato was one of them.

Described as a ‘sausage’ because of it’s shape – a long thin corridor of 1,5 km by 10m -, it then sheltered around 425 families in which 80% of them worked as carroceiros (wagoner’s who scavenged for recyclable waste).

“My house was built with material collected from the lixão – the ‘dump’ for throwing rubbish, located where the favela started”, remembers Sassá, a long-term member of the community and the current treasurer of today’s Arpaga – the Association of Recyclers of Parque do Gato.

The favela was demolished and restored in 2004 to council housing by the Government. Its inhabitants were able to rescue their status of citizenship through elevating their sense of esteem and dignity by living in more mainstream style housing. The homeowners then had to pay a small amount of rent to the government.

Four years later…

The residents started to feel the economic crises in their own pockets. According to Sassá, since the crisis began, some people have returned to the North, some occupants have sold their apartments and a few others have moved into other favelas, living rent-free again. Today, comprised of almost 500 families,  less than 45% of Parque do Gato’s members continue to contribute to the recycling culture that the community first sprang from.

The centre recycles 300 tonnes per month

Smaller, but more organized, Arpaga is the Association of Recyclers of Parque do Gato, which administrates a deposit for recyclable materials servicing approximately 90 local carroceiros. Formed by members of the community, the group has realized the financial and social opportunities of generating revenue whilst providing jobs to their comrades.

According to the head of the association, Jurandir Inácio, the quantity of all recyclable materials collected by the carroceiros is about 300 tonnes per month. “The most popular items are cardboard, plastic, iron, A4 and toilet papers. The payment varies depending on weight and product”, says Jurandir.

Known as ‘robot’, Adalberto, who used to be a wagoner and now works internally for the association, says that “If a collector works on their own, he or she can receive about R$ 800.00 (U$ 434) a month. The recycler who works with their family can make up to R$ 3000.00 (U$ 1630)”.

To better understand the routine of a wagoner, EarthCode decided to have a closer experience by sharing a day with one of the full-time carroceiros, Luís de Lima e Silva.

A Day in the life of a Carroceiro

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