larvalbug bytes archives / Main Index / previous / next
by Larry

October, 2016

Trash vs. Treasure

Since landfills and waste management generally are among the banes of human interaction with the environment, it is encouraging when resourceful ways are found to utilize some of all that debris. Recently in Paraguay, dedicated youth have learned to play instruments made from pieces of landfill trash and then given good classical music concerts. Yes, really!

I have always thought musical instruments were carefully crafted by skilled tradesmen and preserved in pristine conditions for use only by well cultured, highly educated professionals, like, for instance, my wife, Valerie. Yet the Orchestra of Recycled Instruments of Cateura, Paraguay (or, as it has come to be known, "The Recycled Orchestra"), stands in the face of that.

Orchestra students with instruments made from recycled trash (
It is a young people's ensemble that uses musical devices made from such landfill refuse as tin cans, oil drums, old cooking utensils, x-ray film, packing tape, worn out shoes, wooden spoons, drainpipes, melted copper, and bottle caps. Google "Recycled Orchestra," and you can hear them play or see special programs on this unlikely and inspiring group of students whose drive has lifted them from extreme poverty and environmental wastelands to recognition and a unique way to fulfill their educational cravings.

The young people's message is emotionally powerful, and they have gone from being a small community-based gathering to having international recognition and support.

Hats off to creative innovation, the local "trash to triumph" instrument makers, and the lead of great educators like Favio Chavez, a Cateuro environmental engineer who taught the students music in his free time and pulled in skilled workers like Nicolas Gomez, or "Cola," who found ways to invent classical musical instruments out of what others have thrown away!

A documentary was made about the students' success, "Landfill Harmonic." The video from it has gone viral. Orchestra performances have brought badly needed extra funds to Cateuro. Even more important, poor kids who had been used under dire conditions just as child labor are getting educations and receiving well-deserved respect at home and around the world.

They are proving that we do not have to simply accept our fates when circumstances go against us. Who could have believed the transformation that has occurred for these "unfortunate ones" in Paraguay? What opportunities may lie ahead for any of us if we are open to new possibilities?

Primary source: From Trash to Triumph: The Recycled Orchestra. Anastasia Tsioulcas in; September 14, 2016.

larvalbug bytes archives / Main Index / previous / next