By Felicia Bryson, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Carnival is over and Rio’s streets are once again back to normal. According to COMLURB (Companhia Municipal de Limpeza Urbana), the state-owned garbage company managed to collect a total of 849 tones of trash during the five-day Carnival celebrations; a 12 percent increase compared to last year.

Comlurb street cleaner sweeping up trash during a bloco held at Praça XV
COMLURB street cleaners after a bloco held at Praça XV in Rio, photo by Mischa Williamson.

The cleaning was mainly done in and around the Sambódromo and on the streets where bloco parties took place. The entire cleaning operation there involved around 1,572 professionals, not including the day-to-day street cleaning, which took place as usual.

In five days 2,427 COMLURB street cleaners removed 317 tones of garbage. Being one of the bigger blocos, Banda da Ipanema generated 12 tones of waste alone, reflecting the record attendance at this year’s Carnival.

Although COMLURB recycles the trash it collects, Brazil’s waste pickers are really those who do the nitty-gritty work of searching for aluminum cans all over the city to sell to private companies. More so during Carnival, when the streets are crowded with hundreds of thousands of beer drinkers.

Brazil recycled 98.2 percent of the total number of aluminum cans for beverages sold and consumed in 2009, which amounts to 14.7 billion cans according to the latest reports released by the Brazilian Aluminum Association (ABAL).

Brazil is one of the world leaders in the recycling of aluminum cans, which as a result has accounted for R$1.3 billion in 2009. Waste picking has become an officially recognized occupation and has helped boost the economy as well as generating employment and income for thousands of Brazilians, who previously lived below the poverty line.

COMLURB street cleaners working on Paulo Barreto Street in Botafogo, by Felicia Bryson.
COMLURB street cleaners working on Paulo Barreto Street in Botafogo, by Felicia Bryson.

However, even though Rio’s streets look clean there is a problem that has been plaguing the city increasingly from year to year; public urinating. During the Carnival period it has become so frequent that the government has been forced to take action in order to stop the disorderly behavior from both locals and foreigners alike.

Through the recently implemented policy Operação Choque de Ordem‘ (Operation Shock and Order) by Rio’s mayor, Eduardo Paes, people have been arrested for dirtying public property, such as beaches, buildings and parks.

During this year’s Carnival 777 law-breakers (including 26 women and 6 foreigners) were taken to the nearest police station and charged with committing an obscene act in accordance with article 233 of the Penal Code. The number of people arrested has more than doubled compared to 2010, when only 360 people were charged.

This has been the government’s latest attempt to scare people off and force them to use public lavatories, which Alex Costa, Municipal Secretary for the Department of Public Order (SEOP) says there is no excuse for as there were three times as many portable toilets in the streets than last year, a total of 4,200. “The urinating and bad manners are still a problem. We are penalizing heavily”, he told BBC News on Saturday.

In respect to how things will be dealt with in the near future, a further spokesperson for the SEOP said: “Besides the surveillance and detention of street contaminators, the SEOP will introduce a bill proposing executive fines to those who transform the streets of Rio de Janeiro into a large open-air urinal”.


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