Lessons from Brazil – Litter Bugs


(“Guarantee the employment of a street cleaner. Throw trash on the ground.”)

The street cleaner (called a gari here) above is most likely happy he is employed, though I’m pretty sure he’s not too happy about having to pick up lazy people’s trash. Almost daily, I see Brazilians throwing their trash on the street (and no, I’m not talking about when they put their trash in plastic bags and leave them next to the nearest light post on the sidewalk while waiting for dogs to rummage through them garis to pick them up).

I won’t say that Brazilians do this maliciously, but is it any better that they do it purely because they are accostumed to it? I don’t throw my trash on the streets because either I’d be dirtying my own city or I’d be contributing to the dirtiness of someone elses. Sure, this custom of acting as I do is an American thing, but it is also a common sense thing.


Try to litter in the US, and you’ll see what happens. If you aren’t caught by the police and fined (sometimes up to US$1,000), you’ll surely be given the evil eye and there may very well be words exchanged with someone who sees you.


12 thoughts on “Lessons from Brazil – Litter Bugs

  1. Adam,

    What part of the US are you talking about?
    Surely not New York, Florida or the Boston metro where people litter like there is no tomorrow and I never heard of fines…anywhere around here…
    We live on a main 4 lanes Avenue and you would be surprised with the things people throw out the window.
    I think it depends where in Brazil you live and where in the US you live, there is littering everywhere…unfortunately.


    • That’s true! I’m from Rio and when I went to São Luis do Maranhão I was amazed to see that the streets were much cleaner than here.

    • Hi Ray,

      No, not specifically those states, but I’ve lived in 5 states and about 15 cities and things litter-wise are pretty clean everywhere I’ve gone (in comparison to what I see in Brazil). Keeping in mind, I’m not talking about dirtiness, but rather the act of watching people litter. In Brazil, I’ve seen people litter in several different cities across the country. Of course, I’m just one person with only my own experiences to go on…

  2. Adam,

    I totally undertand your point. It’s funny you mention that because I often touch this subject with friends. Last time I was in Sao Paulo with some American collegues from work they were impressed of how clean the city was, we were in the Jardins area, close to Paulista Avenue.
    We live in Rhode Island, very close to the beach. You would be amazed to see what kind of crap people throw out the window of their cars while driving around here. Our house is the 3rd from a traffic light, so many cars use the chance of slowing down to toss stuff out the window. I count over 50 cigarette butts a day on my drive way, it is a endless job. Among the most ackward things are used condoms, a broken cell phone, a dirty diaper. Common items are half eaten burgers, pizza slices, Dunkin Donuts coffee cups, candy wrapper, and empty packs of cigarettes. It is really disgusting.
    I assure you we don’t live in a guetto community, it is actually one of the best areas in Rhode Island. I also remember Los Angeles and San Francisco being really bad regarding littering but Texas being very good. We lived in Dallas and remember it was very different than New England and Florida. Texans are much better behaved when it comes to littering with very few exceptions.


  3. It’s a utopia, when you talk that no one throws trash on the streets in U.S.. I know U.S. and I saw trash on the streets. Brazilians aren’t the only “porcões” in the world. You can not generalize. I live in Rio, I’m Brazilian and I don’t throw my trash on the streets. USA isn’t also a paradise and perfect, as you want to show. Sorry, my english

    • Oi Mila,

      Eu não falei que os EUA são um paraíso e se eu achasse, eu estaria morando lá (minha terra). Todos os países têm seus benefícios e pra mim, um deles para os EUA é o fato que jogar lixo na rua é visto como algo ruim. Pode ser porque foi estabelecida uma norma social e muitas pessoas não jogam lixo na rua apenas pra não ser vistas sem educação.

      • Oi Adam,
        Eu sei que você não falou que era perfeito, mas a forma como você coloca o lá e cá, parece que tudo funciona lá e aqui não, e para quem não conhece o Brasil e lê,fica com uma péssima impressão devido a essa generalização que a maioria dos estrangeiros fazem sobre e o Brasil e os brasileiros (sei que você já é um quase brasileiro e sei o qto você gosta do Brasil também). É a mesma coisa que falar que TODOS os brasileiros gostam de samba e futebol. Isso com certeza não é verdade. A maioria gosta, mas tem tantos outros que não gostam (eu por exemplo odeio futebol). Existem brasileiros mal educados? É claro que sim. Mas existem tantos outros BRs educados também. Como te falei, conheci os EUA, eu achei as pessoas que atendem em lojas, aeroportos, hotel, restaurantes etc… extremamente mal educados, mal humorados e grossos e fiquei com uma péssima impressão, mas eu não posso generalizar e dizer que TODOS os americanos são assim. Aqui também term “normas” para quem joga lixo na rua, mas nem sempre as normas funcionam aqui, você vive aqui e sabe disso, mas elas existem.Eu não jogo lixo na rua só por educação, mas também pela minha cidadania, pq sei o custo de um gari e da limpeza urbana no meu bolso :-). Afinal o gari é um funcionário do povo brasileiro. Abraços :-)

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