REPORTER: Giovana Vitola


This morning, Edna Toledo is busy making a cake out of banana skins.


EDNA TOLEDO (Translation):  It is luxury made from rubbish.


If Edna's recipe seems unusual, it's nothing compared to the amazing house she lives in.


EDNA TOLEDO (Translation):  I like my house - it is airy, even when it is very hot we don’t feel it here.


Edna and her husband, Luiz, have built their home entirely from rubbish.


LUIZ TOLEDO (Translation):  It is not just about cheap materials, it’s art! It’s beautiful and when you are in a place where you feel good – it is good for your whole body.  All the walls are made of newspapers and magazines – they are decorated with broken bottles. The floor is marble waste – we cut it to size and laid it. The roof is made from bamboo found at the side of the road. The house is very good – besides the view, because we are up high – the temperature is also constant. The ventilation is also good.


Luiz is justifiably proud of this house. He only built it recently after the couple got bored with their first recycled house. That one is at the bottom of the hill and it, too, was made entirely from rubbish, except for a few vital points.


LUIZ TOLEDO (Translation): You seal it like this and then you… it is cement for laying bricks, but inside it is rubbish, rubble from building sites. Then you lay them like this to make the walls. Look this is what I was talking about, you can play with the colours, align them and make patterns. It is just the bottom of the bottle. It has quality and beauty too.


The beauty might be in the eye of the beholder, but there's no doubting Luiz's originality.


LUIZ TOLEDO (Translation): the door is different – I like to be different. The ceiling was made out of carbon paper which has no market value. We made a roof everybody likes – that section of roof is made of milk cartons. I mixed in leaves randomly and that is the result – you can add any colour you like and you end up with a beautiful result.


WILLIAM MONACHESI, ARCHITECT (Translation):  From an ecological point of view it is fantastic – these materials would end up in the rubbish dumps or just as litter, dumped anywhere. So it is economically viable and structurally, the material is very strong.


William Monachesi is a local architect who has been watching Luiz Toledo's work closely.


REPORTER (Translation):  Out of 10, what would you give him for beauty and design?


WILLIAM MONACHESI (Translation):  I wouldn’t  give him 10, that would be going too far – but I think 9 or 9.5 would be fair, because it was created by him and his wife – from nothing – a labour of love..



It's not just Luiz's building materials that are environmentally friendly. In front of his house, he has his own sewage treatment plant - a system of ponds filled with aquatic plants that filter the waste.


LUIZ TOLEDO (Translation): This is treated sewage and grey water – no smell, nothing – excellent.


The Toledos' passion for recycling is well-known throughout the neighbourhood. Everything Luiz buys from his neighbours or saves from his own rubbish ends up here, in this storage area.


LUIZ TOLEDO (Translation): Here we sort out the materials, these are glass – no market value as brazil does not recycle glass. These ones here, I use a lot in construction – small ones like these I mix in to make concrete. These newspapers here… I can almost build a house from this quantity – once it is wet and mashed it increases in volume. I can almost make a house just from this.


Luiz's scavenging only provides a small amount of his building material. Most of it is collected by the 'catadores' - the people who walk Brazil's streets, collecting rubbish, and delivering it to recycling co-ops, like this one. This catadores' co-op was actually founded by Luiz himself 10 years ago. It provides an income for many of the poorest people in the area.


LUIZ TOLEDO (Translation): I could make another three houses like mine from this pile.


On the drive back to the Toledos' home, I get a good look at the local housing. Much of it is very primitive and drab, without much natural light or ventilation.


LUIZ TOLEDO (Translation): The way houses are built nowadays is so unhealthy – closed – no ventilation, so then we put in fans and air-conditioners which affect your breathing. It is a vicious cycle going nowhere.


Luiz has decided to tackle this problem with his recycled housing. He is planning a condominium development, and on the homemade elevator back to his house, Luiz points out where he intends to start building.


LUIZ TOLEDO (Translation): The houses will be built across this hill, there will only be ten houses well spaced out, they will be arranged so as not to be on top of each other.


The ecologically sustainable village is still on the drawing board, but it already looks like being a success. However, Luiz says they're not interested in making a profit from it.


LUIZ TOLEDO (Translation):  as it is our own system our idea is not to worry about who will pay more. We only have 20 homes and 65 expressions of interest. So the selection will not be based on money, it will be based on who really wants a different lifestyle – not a mainstream one.  


That night, a local government architect who is overseeing Luiz's development drops by. Laura Jane Barbosa is excited by the potential of Luiz's ideas.


LAURA JANE BARBOSA, LOCAL GOVERNMENT ARCHITECT (Translation):  So it is definitely ecologically and economically sound, I think it is fantastic. It is unbelievably creative – this house is life. It represents a love of life.


LUIZ TOLEDO (Translation): You have no excuse for not living well, in this house there is almost nothing bought new, humanity needs to give up certain things and go back to simpler ways because the way we are going – we won’t survive.


GEORGE NEGUS:  Giovana Vitola reporting, and how terrific was that? I actually wrote down that last comment from Luiz. He said, "Humanity needs to give up certain things "and go back to simpler ways "because the way we're going we won't survive." There are entire libraries on ecology that don't put it that clearly! Inspired? Well, there are links on our website to other eco-homes around the world that you can pinch. Plus, if you're hungry, the recipe for that remarkable banana-skin cake is also there as well:
















22nd  August 2010



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