When most people look at a landfill they see a giant mound of trash. A few may express disdain that more items aren’t recycled. Others may consider wading through the trash to find scrap metal or discarded treasures that can be salvaged for profit or repurposed.
Sadly, in some parts of the world, “garbage picking” is one of the few ways available to earn a living and provide for your family. No matter what the perspective, it’s safe to say that most would never look at a foul-smelling mountain of decay and envision a way to create musical instruments out of it.
A group of children from poverty-stricken Cateura, Paraguay—a village built on top of a landfill—is doing just that. “The Recycled Orchestra” constructs and then plays instruments made entirely of garbage.
Similar to many poor communities around the world, the youth of Cateura are considered at risk for involvement in gangs and drugs. The recycled orchestra is transforming the lives of these children, their families and people around the world.
The orchestra was founded by Favio Chavez, a choir director and environmental technologist, who opened a music school with the intention of bringing hope to the impoverished children of the region through the life-changing power of music.
Lacking funds to purchase instruments, Chavez joined forces with Nicolás Gómez, known as “Cola”, a trash collector and recycler, and began to create instruments from trash. Discarded oil drums became violins and cellos, water pipes and spoons were crafted into flutes, and packing crates provided the base for guitars.
A successful Kickstarter campaign raised $214,129 to fund a documentary film “Landfillharmonic” which follows the orchestra as it takes its inspiring spectacle of trash-into-music around the world. The mission of the movie is “to demonstrate and inspire those all over the world that creative and simple solutions can bring powerful social transformation to the poorest communities.”
The documentary makers hope to inspire audiences to recycle more, and encourage other organizations to give opportunities to underprivileged youth, providing alternatives to drugs and alcohol and a pathway out of poverty.
“The world sends us garbage, we send back music.” says Chávez.