Things Everyone (Including Cornellians) Can Learn from Award Winning Documentary Waste Land

Award winning documentary shows the power of recycling & turning trash into art...


By Jewel Melvin '15, Sustainability Communications and Engagement Assistant

As the old saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” and this is particularly true in the 2010 documentary Waste Land. Academy Award nominated, and winner of Sundance Film Festival Audience Award for Best World Cinema Documentary. Filmed in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Waste Land chronicles acclaimed artist Vik Muniz as he creates giant paintings from garbage.

Jardim Gramacho, Rio’s former largest garbage dump (it was closed in 2012) and one of the world’s largest landfills, was the size of a small mountain, at approximately 18.29 million square feet (1.7 million square meters). The dump was filled with recyclable materials such as metal—so much so that some people (known as catadores, or garbage sorters) had made a living out of sorting through the trash remnants to find recyclables and other usable or valuable items.

As of May 2015 the movie is available on Netflix, and I encourage you to watch it. It may make you think more before you purchase new items and/or throw out others. Today, there are so many options and opportunities to waste less.

Check out: Cornell University R5 Operations: Respect, Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,  Reuse Tompkins  and Recycling and Sold Waste of Tompkins County  to get started on a journey of reducing your carbon footprint and producing less waste.

Waste Land was screened for Cornell community on  March 3, 2015. Check out the movie's official website .

Views expressed in News posts may not be those of Cornell University. No endorsement is implied.