Rio must be the recycling capital of the world. Unless things have changed in the USA, there recycling is still something done half heartily. If you want to you can, but no one imposes the need to recycle on you. You can still buy big inefficient cars, leave your Christmas lights up and on all year round, and you can throw all your trash in one container to be taken to the dump. No one will look at you as scum, or fine you for blackening the 'green earth'.
In Rio it is a requirement of the city that you separate your organic trash from all other trash. The apartment buildings are given fines if this is not done properly so everyone is very careful. Plus, there is an unofficial system, and I am not sure how it works, but I know it is a system. There are men who move through the heavy traffic pushing carts piled high with boxes, paper and other things and there are others who carry used construction materials. I think there is a network starting with the 'porteiros' who phone these men to come when there are things being thrown away in their buildings and they come, from who knows where to haul away anything reusable. Where it all goes is also a mystery to me but it is not hard to imagine everything getting sold, recycled and reused. Nothing wasted. Nothing covered by dirt in a landfill.
I think it is next month that Al Gore will be here in Rio. On Copacabana beach there is to be a huge 'green earth' celebration. I can't help but wonder if he is here to learn from the Brasilians just how it should be done ..... surely he will not be here to tell them ....