A great O Globo story from today sums up Brazil's growing problem of trash generation and inadequate disposal.
"We have an economy that generates trash like developed economies and infrastructure (to deal with it) that never reached 20th century levels," said solid waste expert Emilio Eigenheer of the Universidade Federal Fluminense in Rio de Janeiro.
The problem is increasingly evident in Rio where illegal trash dumps have proliferated, and are now one the area's primary sources of greenhouse gasses. The images are unfortunate ones -- women and children stepping through pools of leachate and picking through medical waste like syringes. But the problem is equally severe in rural areas where garbage collection companies can't be bothered to drive long distances to pick up relatively small amounts of trash. See a reprint of the story in Portuguese, here.
Municipal governments make an effort to build landfills, but they overflow so quickly that within a matter of years they have already turned into the equivalent of the illegal dumps that can be seen alongside the highway heading out of Rio or along the steep banks at the edges of favelas.
This means that even municipalities with money to build facilities don't end up dealing with the problem, because they can't keep up with the volume of trash. Nobody wants to make residents pay the increased costs, so dumping trash wherever happens to be convenient continues to be free. Well, "free."
Brazil is learning that development is not always progress.