Pimp My Carroça

Artist: Thiago Mundano
Location: São Paulo, Brazil
Year: 2012
Researcher: Gabriela Ribeiro

In the year 2012, while painting the city walls, the artist Thiago Mundano noticed a cart garbage collection that occupied the inside lane of the highway, disrupting the traffic. Instead of seeing this merely as a nuisance, Mundano researched what was going on and found that this “unofficial” activity is commonly linked to marginalisation and has a low status in society. However, in cities where the garbage recycling system is not efficient, the “unofficial” activity is nevertheless fundamental and necessary. For example, in the city of São Paulo alone, 17,000 tons of waste are generated per day, and only 1% is recycled; 90% of this recycled material is collected by “marginalised" people, who are nevertheless carrying out an activity of great environmental and social importance.

After this realisation, Mundano got to know the workers, listened to their stories, visited places where they congregate and fell in love with their cause. So the artist created the project "Pimp My Carroça" (an allusion to the popular MTV show "Pimp My Ride”).

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To accomplish the project, Mundano set up Catarse [catarse.me], a crowd funding website, to get donations from the public. On the penultimate day for donations, the R$ 38,200 funding neede to carry out the action had already been exceeded. Even after the deadline, contributions kept coming. By 18 May 2012 , nearly R$ 64,000 (c. US$ 20,000) had been donated by 792 people.

"Pimp my Carroça", was realised in early June 2012, just days before RIO + 20 (The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio de Janeiro) took place, and during the “Virada Sustentável” (Festival of Sustainability) in the city of São Paulo. Selected garbage collection workers were helped by having their carts decorated with art made by professional graffiti artists, including phrases chosen by the public. During this process, the collectors and their families were offered free medical and eye examinations, along with massages. They also received haircuts, food and psychological therapy. As a finale to the project, a demonstration took place in the city centre, calling on the government to recognise, establish and maintain recycling cooperatives.

The artist believes that the workers recycling is unrecognised, not because of the nature of the service, but because of the conditions under which the workers operate. He also believes that his project does not bring a definitive solution to the problem, but simply promotes it among other artists and the general population. To continue the business of promotion, the "Pimp My Carroça" fundraising site is still open and the donor can take action for their own city: donors are awarded a kit for customised decoration (“Pimping”) of the collection carts, along with paints and safety items.

The intent of recognising the re-cycling collectors through artistic action gives the population at large an increased level of social awareness about their work, recognising and honoring it. The rights and conditions of the workers can be improved by giving them visibility as environmental agents in Brazilian cities, and demonstrating that they are workers who are due everyone’s respect.

Progress Agency