Wherever humans exist, so does trash. What varies from place to place is how individuals, companies and governments manage that garbage. David Berón Echavarría ’15 is spending a year traveling the world on a Watson Fellowship, studying international methods of waste management.
Berón Echavarría’s aim is to “explore what waste and waste management (or its non-management) reveal about a community’s politics, economics and social arrangements.”
He’s already changed his consumption habits. “I don’t buy new clothes,” he said in December. “I went to the tailor yesterday because I ripped my pants. There’s a hole in my shoe; I’m fixing it. The idea of being content with a few things is not a new idea, but it seems more reasonable to me now than ever.”
Here’s where Berón Echavarría has been and where he’s going.
Buenos Aires is home to 40,000 workers who collect recyclables door-to-door and streetto- street. Berón Echavarría spent a month and a half accompanying these workers, most of whom are in unionized cooperatives, on their daily rounds to neighborhoods and recycling centers. “You see mundane objects—baby shoes, maps, bicycles—in discarded form. It’s a shocking recognition that everything is going to end up somewhere else,” he says.
In São Paulo, he spent time at a cooperative’s supermarket drop-off station for recyclables. He also spoke with graffiti artists who paint pushcarts of workers who travel the streets collecting recyclables. The art raises awareness about collectors’ service and the need to improve their working conditions. Off hours, Berón Echavarría got a new passport, applied for visas and replaced his shattered camera screen.