06 Mar

The Negative Effects of Landfills and One Unique Solution

For most people, the landfill is a place to leave their trash. It’s dirty, it smells bad, and no one wants to stick around longer than needed to get rid of the garbage. However, for the residents of Cateura, Paraguay, the landfill is home. Most residents live among the discarded waste in the landfill, as the village is poverty stricken and people have nowhere else to go.

The Negative Effects of Landfills

While most people are opposed to the idea of spending much time in a landfill because of the overwhelmingly foul stench and the dirty nature of these places, residents living in these conditions face very serious health concerns, including:

·        Leachate: When water gets into waste broken down in the landfill, a liquid substance called leachate is formed. An incredibly toxic substance, leachate can pollute the waterways, land and groundwater.

·        Toxins: Many items left in the landfill contain harmful toxins that eventually break down into the soil and groundwater. These serve as an environmental hazard for years and years after they’re discarded.

·        Greenhouse Gas: When green waste and other organic materials are brought to the landfill, they’re covered and compacted, preventing the oxygen that breaks it down in an anaerobic process from reaching the waste. Over time, this releases methane gas, which is 21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

A Unique Solution to Landfill Waste

The Landfill Harmonic, a documentary by Alejandra Amarilla, showcases the unique way the residents of Cateura, Paraguay are repurposing trash for a very good cause. Thanks to the creative mind of one very crafty garbage picker and the overwhelming support of the community, trash in Cateura is often turned into musical instruments for the town’s youth orchestra.

The Recycled Orchestra plays instruments made entirely from trash found in Cateura’s landfill. When Alejandra Amarilla heard this incredible story, she traveled to the village to create a powerful documentary, allowing their music to be heard around the world. Production began in 2010, with the team traveling to Cateura to film the youth musicians perfecting their craft. Alejandra Amarilla returned in 2011 to film updates on three new members who had recently joined the group.

To fund production costs, Alejandra Amarilla used the popular crowdfunding site Kickstarter. The campaign was so powerful that more than 5,000 people donated money to the cause, ensuring that the film would be made and shared with the world. In fact, donations exceeded her initial goal of $175,000 by 23%.

The extra funds were used to send the members of The Recycled Orchestra on a world tour ─ something most of the children would never have been able to experience without the help of the documentary.