Waste Land

As a landscape architect I started wondering how our work impacts the daily lives of citizens within and around the communities we help to improve.  Can we do more?

Waste Land is an inspirational documentary about how an artist, Vik Muniz, integrated the lives of a small Brazilian community within the photographic process of his work as a tool for social change.  The documentary takes place in Jardim Gramacho, the world’s largest dump site, receiving 7,000 tons of garbage daily.  It is located along the northern edge of Rio de Janeiro’s Guanabara Bay in Brazil.

During the economic crises of the 70’s and 80’s self designated pickers, known as catadores, began working and living at Jardim Gramacho.  The city does not have a recycle center.  As a means of survival catadores began sorting the garage for recyclables; PVC, plastic, etc., for sale to manufacturers.  The selected materials would change with demand and the economy.  A world renowned artist Vik Muniz envisioned using the recyclables as part of the medium and the pictorial canvas became the experience and lives of the individual pickers.  All proceeds will go directly to ACAMJG, the Association of Recycling Pickers of Jardim Gramacho.  ACAMJG was formed by the catadores to provide services for the catadores, which include a 24 hour medical clinic, daycare center and skills training.  Today, second generation pickers continue sorting the trash.  The facility is scheduled to close in 2012, skills training will be a crucial part of survival for catadores to find a job.

Every project we work on impacts the lives of others, hopefully more than we will ever know.


  1. Great post Eileen! I often wonder how we may contribute our professional expertise in such a way; there is certainly a commitment implicit in finally figuring the answer to that question (city planning in third world/developing countries comes to mind). I could go on, but I’ll just add that the story you’ve shared is very moving to me personally. To learn more about this particular project you can search ‘catadores’ at npr.org and find articles, interviews, and a story of the documentary made about the ACAMJG.
    thanks again!

  2. Absolutely fantastic film, Vik Muniz is inspirational. He has a TED talk which is very much worth your time to hunt down and view.

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