Brazil is the world’s fifth largest producer of waste. It produces over 80 million tonnes of rubbish per year and only 3% of it is recycled (Agência Brasil 2018). While producing large quantities of waste on one level reflects the ability of a society to spend and consume, and therefore to lay a tentative claim to an elevated “first-world” economy and standard of living, the flipside to this in Brazil is the army of economically disenfranchised who in order to survive are forced to go through that rubbish in search of something that can be reused, recycled, refashioned, or in some cases, consumed. As we will see, the idea of a large underclass of Brazilians reduced to picking through the leftovers of consumer society both literally and metaphorically, has haunted the national psyche and tends to dominate global images of consumerism in relation to the country. By way of example, in 2014, 294,200 tonnes of aluminium cans were produced in Brazil and 289,500 of those were recycled, making the country the most successful recycler of aluminium in the world (Linnenkoper 2015). But it is the catadores, the rubbish pickers working in the most unsavoury conditions, who are mostly responsible for separating the rubbish for recycling. It is estimated that there are between 400,000 and 600,000 rubbish pickers in Brazil, with 70% being black or mixed-race women (Mori 2017). They have notoriously few rights and extremely low incomes: only just over 30,000 are members of labour associations or co-operatives. The poorest of these are those who separate plastic and paper, living in or around the very dangerous and highly polluted rubbish tips.