Latin America's largest garbage dump closes, sparking fears from trash pickers


Rio closes infamous garbage mountain ahead of UN summit on environmental sustainability and the FIFA World Cup 2014.


Spencer Platt

Rio closed Latin America's largest landfill Jardim Gramacho this past weekend ahead of the Rio+20 United Nations sustainable development summit next month.

The eyesore landfill along Rio's coast has been in operation for 34 years and has provided incomes for countless numbers of trash pickers who fear for their future.

The site covers 1.5 million sq. yards and contains about 60 million tons of trash.

It is said that about 70 percent of the trash produced in Rio de Janeiro with a population of over 11 million goes to Gramacho, reported Fox News.

The dump covers a mangrove swamp and has polluted the waters of Guanabara Bay and the beaches north of the city where many visitors flock.

The Associated Press said that for most of its existence the dump was completely unregulated and there was no government oversight regarding toxic dumping, spills  

The government also failed to collect information on the thousands that picked through the trash, many of which were believed to be children.

The government began regulating the site in 1996.

AFP reported that the over 1700 trash pickers or "catadores" that work at the site now may be out of work after the closure.

"The closure of the dump will have a very big impact on us since for many this was the only source of income," Ana Carla Nistaldo, a nearby resident of the dump told AFP

"What will happen to the families?"

Yet the government has planned to pay the pickers about $7000 each for losing their jobs, said Fox News.

A solid waste treatment center will be built on the site and wells will be put in to capture the methane gas created by the decomposing materials.