The yearly Carnival celebrations ended on Wednesday, but for the residents of Rio de Janeiro, the traces of the revelry remain—literally. The trash collectors are on strike and it has been five days since anyone saw an emptied bin. Neighborhoods are beginning to smell, and heaps of refuse line the streets.
The local authorities are having a hard time explaining why they had not been able to clean up. Vinicus Roriz, president of the municipal trash company in Rio, said that they are working to normalize operations, and that negotiations with the strikers are ongoing. The strikers are demanding higher wages.
The result is chaotic. Piles of paper, metal, plastic, and other party refuse line major roads, and even popular tourist spots such as the beaches in Ipanema and Copacabana are strewn with litter. Stuffed trash bins are becoming a common sight from the city to the suburbs.
On a lighter note, it is true that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. In the case of Rio’s garbage strike, trash pickers are having a grand time sorting through the piles for glitzy booty. Many of the revelers’ costumes and props are discarded after the Carnival, and these are the treasures that trash pickers look for. Headgear, costly fabrics, feathers, and other flashy objects are collected, made into new costumes, and re-sold.
Elaine da Silva Moraes, a trash picker, remarks that the Carnival participants are crazy to throw money away. She and her children collect discarded items and repurpose them into costumes that they sell to small samba schools and to individuals looking for party wear.
The strike, which coincided with the Carnival, poses a big problem: if it continues, or if matters are not resolved, Brazil would have a dilemma in three months’ time, when Rio and other cities host the World Cup. Over 600,000 soccer fans from around the world are expected to come, in addition to the millions of people who will also be watching in different locations such as homes, bars, and restaurants in the country.
Watch scenes from Rio Carnival 2014
Image via YouTube