If things look a little greener around here this April, there’s a good reason. Our editorial staff is busy expanding the ideals of Earth Day into a month-long celebration of energy conservation, alternative transportation, recycling tips and about a million ways you can be a better friend to the planet. Welcome to Green Month, Milwaukee.
Last year, I saw the documentary “Recycled Life” at the Times Cinema, 5906 W. Vliet St. It’s the story of thousands of people living and working in the world’s most toxic landfill in Guatemala City. (This is the city where my son was born in 2002, and it is possible my son's birthmother lives in the dump.)
This lifestyle began more than 60 years ago, when farmers unable to sustain their crops, moved to the city and could not find work. City workers found themselves without paychecks, too, so large groups of people moved to the landfill and started eking out a life by colleting and recycling junk.
It’s now two generations later, and an estimated 60,000 people live inside the dump, some of whom have lived there for their entire lives. There is a hospital and school inside the dump, and everything these people -- called “guajeros” -- eat, wear and have in their shanties are items rescued from the landfill.
Sad? It depends on how you look at it. To many of us, living in a dump sounds awful, and indeed, the guajeros deal with disease and toxic fires -- even death from avalanches of garbage -- on a regular basis. However, they do serve a purpose.
The guajeros reduce Guatemala's waste by one million pounds per day. If it weren't for them, Guatemala City would be practically devoured in trash. Plus, despite the conditions, they feel a sense of pride and dignity in their work.
Today, I have an article on the site entitled “Redefining junkfood: ‘Freegans’ rescue groceries from trashcans.” The piece introduces multiple Milwaukeeans who eat food and grab items from the trash because they feel there is too much waste in the world. It’s amazing to me that people make the decision to live a recycled life by choice, and I applaud them.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.