We’ve all been there: you are enjoying a beer on the beach and a young boy or an elderly woman comes to your table and asks if they can have your empty beer can. Sometimes you are asked three times by three different people before you can even empty the can. Such is the trade in aluminum recycling.
At street fairs there are people dressed in rags crushing cans under their flip-flop-clad feet. It is impossible to walk the streets without seeing a person tipping open the trash containers strapped to light poles looking for discarded cans. People partying in the street don’t think twice about tossing their empty cans onto the ground because they are certain they will be picked up in only moments by a soggy poor soul dragging a large plastic bag filled with cans.
On one hand, being the country with the worldwide highest aluminum can recycling rate for the past nine years might be a good thing. But on the other it can be understood as a symptom of the intense poverty that affects so many families here.
In 2006, aluminum can recycling in the U.S. was only 52%. During the same year, it was 94.4% in Brazil. This comparison reports more than just an enthusiasm for recycling. Read more here.