Ross School - Senior Projects 2011


Student: Lorenzo Pessano Azevedo

Mentor: Carleton Schade

Domain(s): English, Cultural History, Modern Language and Art




Title: Garbage: An Instrument For Social Mobility










The agricultural revolution brought with it division of labor and inequality. With the industrial revolution and population growth further amplifying these problems. Poverty engenders shorter lifespan, crime, bad health and lack of education. Due to this poverty has become a major global issue. The number of people living in poverty is astounding. It is estimated that 1 billion people are currently living in 200,000 slums. This is about 1/7 of our planet’s population. In Brazil 36.0% of people live in poverty and 11.0% live in extreme poverty, with 52 million people living in slums.

When I go to Brazil I always see catadores. These are slum dwelling men who ride around in horse drawn carriages collecting garbage, which they separate and sell. I never really thought much about what they did until last year. I don’t know what sparked my interest in them, but I really wanted to find out why they turned to recycling as a source of income. So after arriving back from a trip to Brazil I started to do a little research about recycling in Brazil. I found an article about how recycling in a particular favela of Porto Alegre, the city where my grandparents live, helped to reform the community. The word favela is a Portuguese word for Slum. When the citizens of Vila Pinto, this particular favela, saw how much money and attention the recycling brought to the community they turned their backs on the drug dealers who had previously run their neighborhood and took charge of it themselves. This program was all single handedly started by a woman named Marli Medeiros. I instantly wanted to learn more about the social and economic benefits of recycling. So, I made this topic my senior project.

My goals were to make something that would educate people on favelas and the economic and social benefits of recycling while at the same time being entertaining. I also wanted my product to be readable for all ages.

Even though I had found a lot of research on my topic, 30 bullet pointed pages worth, I knew the best way for me to get the information I wanted was to go to Vila Pinto and see what had been accomplished there first hand. To do this the past August I traveled to Brazil to go visit Marli and Vila Pinto.

To prepare for my trip I met with Sally booth.  She helped me make a list of questions I wanted to ask Marli. As well as teaching me how to conduct an interview and telling me what was appropriate behavior while doing field research.

Before going to Brazil I also needed to find a way to get into Vila Pinto. Entering a favela is like entering a foreign country. You need someone who knows the area and it’s inhabitants. So I contacted my mother’s childhood friend Adrianne who works at the Municipal Department of Urban Sanitation and asked her if she knew anyone who could help me with my project. She immediately put me in contact with her boss Jairo.

My second day in Brazil I had an interview with Jairo. After our meeting he sent one of his colleagues, Jerson, to take me to Vila Pinto and introduce me to Marli. Before my interview with her I visited 11 different favelas around Porto Alegre in order to have something to compare everything I’ve seen in Vila Pinto with.

Each favela was like it’s own world. With its unique architecture, layout and culture. However, as I learned, they were all close to an important municipal building. While touring these favelas I learned that people kiss each other three times on the cheek when greeting, compared to the two times its done in the rest of Brazil.

The day after my interview with Marli I spent a day working in the recycling center. Here I was able to see first hand the benefits of recycling. The workforce at the recycling center in Vila Pinto is 90% women. The reason for this is that recycling has become a catalyst for change. The women who are recycling are esteemed in Vila Pinto. Recycling, in a way, is one of the only socially acceptable professions for these women who would otherwise turn to drug trafficking or prostitution. This job has given them the possibility of upward mobility. The women at the center were smiling from 7:00 when work started until 6:00 when the sun went down and the day ended.  


Works Cited


Airton, Professor. "Reciclagem de lixo, problema trabalhista ou solućčo social?" 2008. PUCRS. III Mostra de Pesquisa da Pós-Graduaćčo PUCRS. <>.


Davis, Mike. Planet Of Slums. New York: Verso, 2006.

"Direitos Humanos." Prefeitura de Porto Alegre. <>.

Fundaćčo Banco do Brasil. Boas Práticas na Reciclagem. Sčo Paulo: FBB - Fundaćčo Banco do Brasil, 2002.

Fundaćčo Banco Do Brasil. Programa Bio Consciźncia Guia Da Coleta Seletiva De Lixo. Sčo Paulo : FBB - Fundaćčo Banco do Brasil, 2002.

Fundaćčo Banco do Brasil. Programa Bio Consciźncia Guia da Cooperativa de Catadoes. Sčo Paulo : FBB - Fundaćčo Banco do Brasil, 2002.

Guerrero, Jackeline Amantino de Andrade and Raquel Proano. "Unidades de Reciclagem de Porto Alegre." July 2000. EAESP. Marta Ferreira Santos Farah e Hélio Batista Barboza. <źncias/2000/15%20-%20unidades%20de%20reciclagem.pdf>.

Gutberlet, Jutta. Recovering Resources - Recycling Citizenship: Urban Poverty Reduction in Latin America. Burlington : ASHGATE, 2008.

Iensen, Eliane. Secretaria Da Justića e do Desenvolvimento Social. March 2007. <>.

National Nuclear Energy Commission (CNEN), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. "The Radiological Accident in GoiČnia." 1988. IAEA. International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna. <>.

O programa SASE antende 50 crianćas no CEJAK. By CEJAK. Perf. crianćas do Vila Pinto. CEJAK. 2008.

Pearce, Fred. The Coming Population Crash and Our Planet's Surprising Future. Boston: Beacon Press, 2010.

Schuler, Roberta. "Por dentro da reciclagem." 4 June 2010. Clic RBS. <,1,1,,,77>.



Outside Consultant


Name: Laurie Watson

Occupation: Language teacher

Relation: She has lived in Brazil and speaks, reads and writes in Portuguese.