Ready for a good cry?

You know I’m passionate about transforming waste into wonder,

but here’s a story that goes beyond anything I’ve ever dreamed possible …

and left me with tears streaming down my face.

It begins in Cateura, Paraguay, a shantytown that’s built upon a landfill where the water supply is dangerously polluted and rains bring floods of refuse.

More than 1,500 tons of solid waste arrives each day, according to UNICEF, and Cateura’s 2,500 families, young and old, survive by separating the garbage underfoot for recycling.

And yet, amid squalor beyond most Americans’ comprehension, beauty is blooming from the most unexpected places …

An old coffee can.

Bottle caps.

Discarded kitchen utensils.


One person’s trash,

it seems,

can become another’s …


“A violin is worth more than a house here,” says Favio Chavez, director of the Landfill Harmonic.

A few years ago, one of the garbage pickers, “an untutored genius of the slum,” joined forces with Chaves, a local musician, to make instruments for the children of Cateura using what they had—trash.

Like magic, violins and cellos emerged from oil drums,

flutes sprung from water pipes and spoons,

wooden packing crates became guitars,

and garbage-picking kids were transformed into musicians.

The Recycled Orchestra was born.

As the dream continues to flourish in the hearts of blossoming musicians, the orchestra is beginning to take tours around the world, stunning audiences with the quality of music that can be produced from “waste.”

At the same time, filmmakers are working on a new documentary, due to be released in 2014, which tells this tale of trash and treasure. Take a peek:

In the coming month, Landfill Harmonic is trying to raise over $113,000 to support their ongoing effort and complete the film. If you’d like to help make it happen, visit their Kickstarter page to pledge as little as a dollar.


Photos courtesy of Landfill Harmonic


Photos courtesy of Landfill Harmonic


Photos courtesy of Landfill Harmonic


Photos courtesy of Landfill Harmonic

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Amazing! I am so impressed at their talent and creativity. The most painful thing for me to keep reading is how so many people of this planet do not even have clean drinking water for their daily needs. I take clean water for granted when everyday people die from water born illnesses that we have the technology to eradicate. Thanks for sharing!

    • MaryJane says:

      Winnie, I LOVE our morning “conversations” and your wisdom. It’s a great start to my day! Thank you.

      • Winnie Nielsen says:

        Thank-you Mary Jane for such a sweet compliment! I very much enjoy your blog and the opportunity to “chat” directly with you too. I love how you find so many interesting books, words, trends, healthy life style, and meaningful ideas to share with all of us. Checking in with your blog is a daily pleasure I look forward to each day. Oh, and those photos you post are so interesting and beautiful. Do you take all of the pictures?

  2. Shery says:

    The Arts are so healing and so is creativity. Amazing and humbling to see such real joy and a healthy kind of pride on their faces.

  3. Karlyne says:

    Do you what I find the most horrifying? It’s that Paraguay has “conspicuous consumption”, just like we do. They are overflowing with plastic junk, too. And yet… Look what blooms from it: initiative, work and beauty!

  4. Toni says:

    Love wins the day…

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