For several months, a team of volunteers has been gathering every Sunday to clean the kilos of waste from the Zêzere River, from the Castelo de Bode dam. The initiative is from the Planet Caretakers association, which already has 17 teams spread across the country, but it is there, in the countryside, that it has the most impact.
The idea came to Sofia Mendonça last summer, who passed it on to her friend Fábio João, considered by his companions to be the guardian of the Zêzere river: she lives in a house in the Trizio region, one of the most beautiful river beaches of Serta. At the helm of his boat, he began by taking half a dozen friends to clean up. “While it was summer, we used to go there on Wednesdays, at the end of the day. The boat takes seven people, sometimes we went over the garbage cans… then we started doing that on Sundays. Now we takes two boats and, all the same, we don’t divulge much because we no longer have the capacity to accommodate more people”, tells DN the man who lives by the river, in the middle of nature. , and who, knowing the banks and the bed, has never ceased to be surprised at the state in which he finds it. : “We picked up everything, from the famous cotton swab to yoghurt packaging, through water, pesticides, polystyrene, tires, to refrigerators and other household appliances. Some throw everything into the river.”
As the landscape contrasts with this dump, the journeys of the Castelo de Bode team are always inspiring and have become something beautiful. This is how the poet Miguel Manso and others who have joined him in the meantime enter the scene. “We collect garbage, but we also read poetry. In the meantime, we have started to invite a few photographers to join us,” he told DN. The result of this work should be part of an exhibition alluding to garbage collection, in July, during the literary festival promoted by the municipality of Sertã.
Caring for the environment across the country
It’s been a year since this whole movement started. But in fact, it was germinating for a long time, by the mentor Débora Sá. The 33 years of this eternal scout seem very little for all that she has traveled in terms of social responsibility, helping others.
Born in Costa da Caparica, Débora knows today that she comes from nowhere, because she often travels where she needs to go. The same goes with the profession, which can be a network manager, a yoga teacher or a computer technician. This nomadic side made him land in Brazil, for a mission that was to last three months. This is where I was when the pandemic hit, in March 2020. “The three months ended up being six. The flights were all canceled and I moved to the favela, on the island of ‘Itaparica. So I used all my money to help that As I ended up staying longer I took all my friends from report and I did a fundraiser to continue helping, especially with food and basic things. Without knowing it, that’s where Planet Caretakers was born,” he told DN.
When he managed to return, all this made Debora think. “It was full of good things. I organized a garbage collection in Fonte da Telha. First, only two people showed up. In a second event it was around 12, the third time around 16, and that’s how it started to grow.” Débora was convinced that “maybe she even had a thing for that” [mobilizar pessoas]. He noticed that some told him that they would also like to participate, but that they were far away. And that’s how the idea of creating teams across the country was born. I simply did not imagine that a year after the official creation of the association, Planet would have spread throughout the territory. To date it is present in Afife, Almada, Caparica, Cascais, Castelo de Bode, Coimbra, Ericeira, Figueira da Foz, Fonte da Telha, Seixal, Sesimbra, Porto, Costa Nova, Trafaria and Vendas Novas, out of a total of 17 teams. .
By the end of January, Planet had carried out 71 garbage collections, thanks to 600 people involved. Sometimes Debora still wonders “how did this happen”. But when you see the numbers growing on the page, you know it’s real. After all, it was really only a first step towards this great journey. You don’t know most people, and they don’t know you either. The teams talk to each other on WhatsApp and “of course some are more active than others”. Castelo de Bode is an example of dynamism. On social networks, there is a telephone number “where people can ask to join the collections, at the same time we announce them”.
And once collected, what happens to the garbage? “The teams sort at the time of collection or later. In some areas we warn the municipal services that we are going to do it, when we know in advance that there will be a lot of glass, we warn for example , Marsul or similar ones as we end up filling the local containers.”
Planet Caretakers is a non-profit association. Anyone can become a member, by paying an annual fee of 12 euros, simply by completing the corresponding form on the site.