POST B: Does landfill make noise? – The Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay

Tania walks through her town Cateura, Paraguay - a community built on landfill.
Tania walks through her town Cateura, Paraguay – a community built on landfill.

‘Landfill Harmonic’ – a documentary filmed in a poor slum in Paraguay called Cateura tells the story of school children playing instruments made from the garbage of their community’s landfill. The area of Cateura is essentially a waste dump that people have made a home on – and with the area so poverty stricken, over 40% of its children don’t finish schooling and are often abandoned. To keep their education and spirits up musician Favio Chávez and local garbage picker Nicolás Gómez ‘Cola’ formed a partnership, hand crafting instruments from cans, cutlery, pipes, crates and other garbage. These instruments dissuade the kids from playing in the dumps and turn their interests towards learning music.  Not only are real wooden instruments expensive, but the handmade instruments of Chávez’s actually sound better – and the children engage with them more.

“A community like Cateura, is not a place to have a violin, in fact, a violin is worth more than a house here.” – Favio Chávez

Saxaphone made from recycled pipes and bottle caps.

In light of the documentary, the Recycled Orchestra has been given funds and support from all over the world – and the exposure of Paraguay’s environmental deterioration through the film has given the community some much needed media attention. Flooding rivers in the area have been known to infiltrate the dump site and spread its toxic residues – increasing the pollution and contamination wildly. “…about a third of the nation’s forest and woodland area has been lost. The absence of trees contributes to the loss of soil through erosion. Water pollution is also a problem. Its sources include industrial pollutants and sewage… The nation’s cities produce about 0.4 million tons of solid waste per year. Some of Paraguay’s cities have no facilities for waste collection.” As stated by Encyclopedia of the Nations. With these environmental issues exacerbating due to the lack of governmental waste collection – the citizens of Cateura, Paraguay have made lives off their trash. Most people are seen chasing after trucks of trash as it spills on to the road for collection or a valuable find, while kids often play and wander amongst it – which poses a safety risk.

Violin in the making..
Violin in the making..

Through Chávez’s program of using recycled materials he has hand picked with associates, they have created a spiritual and educational use for the trash they live amongst. Now these children are so active and inspired they have begun travelling together as an orchestra. The group gives them social stability and creative goals for themselves. The orchestra is self sufficient however its media exposure has now opened up avenues for donations and volunteer workers for their community. Not only has this program taught music to underprivileged and uninspired children of South America, it has also taught them how to build and manufacture their own product/end use designs out of the very trash that surrounds them – decreasing the landfill and finding a worthwhile use for the materials. Apart from the education not only to the children but the exposure of waste issues it has given these children an aspiration to make more of themselves than they ever thought possible.

“My life would be worthless without music.” – Tania, 15 years old, Cateura Paraguay.


– Koul, P. (2013). Viewpoint: Landfill Harmonic putting tunes to waste | The Alternative. [online] The Alternative. Available at: [Accessed 26 Apr. 2015].

– Landfill Harmonic, (2012). Teaser of the upcoming documentary film “Landfill Harmonic”.

Available at: [Accessed 26 Apr. 2015].

–, (n.d.). The Landfillharmonic. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Apr. 2015].

–, (n.d.). Environment – Paraguay – problem, area, farming, policy. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Apr. 2015].

– NewsOK, (2014). Paraguay’s capital issues alert over floods. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Apr. 2015].

– Orquesta Reciclados Cateura, (n.d.). Orquesta Reciclados Cateura. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Apr. 2015].

One thought on “POST B: Does landfill make noise? – The Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay

  1. Very interesting post. Its great to see that such creativity and talent can stem from the most dire and unlikely of places- a garbage heap. Relating to Indonesia theres a company called ffrash that is reusing garbage waste for furniture, and in Brazil, Vic Muniz has created some great art with garbage aswell. Apart from just reusing the resources I think the most important benefit of these types of initiatives is the self value that is derived from them.

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