Waste Land

Waste left untreated on Itacaré's dump site, located at about 4 kilometers outside the city on the way to Ilhéus.

Waste left untreated on Itacaré's dump site, located at about 4 kilometers outside the city on the way to Ilhéus.

“Solid waste management is a universal issue that matters to every single person in the world. And with over 90% of waste openly dumped or burned in low-income countries, it is the poor and most vulnerable who are disproportionately affected” - World Bank.

In sharp contrast with its more colorful side, which I attempted to document through the images you can see here, the photographs you see here show a darker reality that no longer can be ignored in Itacaré: the waste crisis.

Covering an area of approximately 200,000 square meters, Itacaré's dump site occupies a vast portion of the Atlantic Rainforest that still surrounds the city, threatening an already fragile ecosystem and the livelihoods of the communities who rely on the nearby Jeribucaçu river.

According to the World Bank, “[…] Poorly managed waste is contaminating the world’s oceans, clogging drains and causing flooding, transmitting diseases, increasing respiratory problems from burning, harming animals that consume waste unknowingly, and affecting economic development, such as through tourism”.

Greenhouse gasses from waste are also a key contributor to climate change. In 2016 alone, over 5% of global emissions were generated from solid waste management, excluding transportation. The world generates 2.01 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste annually, with at least 33% of that not managed in an environmentally safe manner. Rapid urbanization, population growth and economic development are expected to increase that number by 70% over the next three decades.

In Itacaré, the dump site is home to a dozen families who make their living out of waste, working without any type of protection equipments. They share the space with dogs, vultures and literally thousands of pigs that have already began to occupy adjacent protected areas and nearby properties.

When it is not burned, the waste is simply abandoned without any sort of treatment or proper disposal, posing additional threats to already endangered fauna and flora species. Not to mention the health issues faced by those who live there.

These images were commissioned by local NGOs and community centers as part of a collective and transdisciplinary campaign to raise awareness about the issue, and put pressure on local/regional governamental entities and policymakers.

Famous for its natural beauty and with an economy that is predominantly dependent on tourism, Itacaré may very well be putting at risk its own ecological and economic sustainability by not taking the necessary and urgent measures to solve its waste crisis.