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    Trash Photos IV: The Carioca Model

    By Keith R | October 2, 2006

    Topics: "Trash Photos" Series, Waste & Recycling | No Comments »

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    A model Comlurb Truck -- Made with recycled materials!

    I took the above photo in the offices of Rio de Janeiro’s Municipal Urban Sanitation Company (Companhia Municipal de Limpeza Urbana – Comlurb) this past spring. Every year when in Rio I meet with a friend in Comlurb who is a well-known and well-informed waste expert. Sometimes we meet at Comlurb’s main office in Tijuca, as we did this year. I spotted this model truck on a stand behind my friend’s desk and just had to take a picture of it.

    Why am I showing you this photo of a model Comlurb waste collection truck?

    Because, ladies and gentlemen, it is was made entirely with recovered materials. Yup, more creative recycling. Which is somehow appropriate, given all the different experiments Comlurb has conducted over the years in waste recovery (something I intend to blog about in future entries).

    The Comlurb logoAnother interesting thing about that model — to me, at least — is the prominence of the label “Prefeitura.” Prefeitura is the Portuguese word for “city hall” — the city executive, in other words. Until a few years back, everything associated with the Company featured its own acronym prominently. The joke in Rio is that City Hall, looking around for something to improve its own image, decided that everything associated with Comlurb needed to feature “Prefeitura” first and foremost, with the Comlurb name smaller and almost as a footnote. Borrowed prestige, as it were.The ubiquitous orange men & bins

    You see, although Comlurb the mixed-capital company was only created in 1976, it can trace its roots and reputation in Rio all the way back to the end of the 19th century. The ubiquitous men in orange (nicknamed “garis” after the Frenchman Aleixo Gary credited with starting formal municipal sanitation service in Rio in 1885-1895), and the orange canisters and bins, are Rio institutions trusted by cariocas. Given Rio’s size and population density, the number of concerts, conventions and events that Rio hosts, and the huge number of visitors that come to Rio every year, Comlurb does a pretty good job of keeping the city clean.

    The orange bins can be goal posts too, rapaz!This next picture is not just meant to give the female readers of The Temas Blog something to look at. These guys on Copacabana Beach were using the bright orange wheelie bins you can find all along Rio’s beaches (a clump of bins about every 10 meters? or so it seems) as stand-ins for the goal posts for a game of beach soccer.

    Even though they tied up four trash bins this way for quite awhile, there were still plenty of bins nearby for people to throw away their disposables, coconut husks, etc. And more importantly, those nearby bins were frequently checked and emptied by the men in orange. The nearby bins never became overstuffed or overflowing with trash.

    I have been traveling to Rio since 1979, and have yet to see an overflowing Comlurb bin by the beach, in a city park, or by a tourist spot. There are many Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) cities and tourist spots, I am sorry to say, that could learn from that example.

    Comlurb bins at a lookout spotThe next picture is a good example of how you will find Comlurb bins almost everywhere you look in Rio (even in the middle of the city forest!). If you go by car up to Corcovado, the mountain where the statute of Christ embraces Rio with his outstretched arms, most people will stop halfway up to show you a terrace next to a helipad that offers a breathtaking panorama view of Rio. There on that terrace, tucked under the trees, are — you guessed it — two well-maintained Comlurb bins.

    But look closer. The orange bin facing away is an ordinary rubbish bin. The green one facing the camera, however, says “pilhas e baterias.” It is for disposing of spent batteries.

    Rio, you see, was one of the first municipalities in Brazil — for that matter, in Latin America — to set up a citywide collection system for spent batteries. In Rio you can spot hundreds of these green bins. You might not see any batteries inside them, but then, that’s a blog topic for another day.

    Their experiments with special collection and recycling schemes do not stop with batteries, though (again, I’ll leave the details for a future blog). Check closely the label on the dark bin with orange top shown in this photo along the beach in Rio.

    Beachside Bin for NappiesYes, this is a bin for dirtied disposable diapers (“nappies” as my British friends might call them). Comlurb is evidently experimenting with composting these. I have never seen such a bin anywhere else in my travels, and that includes the US, Canada and many European countries.

    But then Comlurb, like the city it serves, is not like everyone else.

    É certo, rapaz! Comlurb é carioca!

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