The difference between then and now? In Rio the pilgrims will be handed plastic bags on arrival and told to use them for litter. Brazilian zero waste agency Rio Lixo Zero and the city itself have combined forces to beautify their cities and regions with a crackdown on litterbugs, including pilgrims, apparently.
WYD issued a statement July 20th reminding devotees to abide by the strict new laws that are set to come into play on touchdown.
July 1 was the date when strict enforcement was to come of age in Rio. But the city has extended until August the time at which the real hard line stand will begin in earnest.
Nevertheless, the entourage of WYD pilgrims has been told to not litter or risk paying a fine. The missive came from the Pontifical Catholic Church of Brazil.
The youth have been instructed to put their trash in a bin, or use the bag until a suitable container can be found.
This is progress.
I am proud of the Catholic Church for reaching out to parishioners and telling them not to sully the land with their coterie of wrappers, gum, pop cans, water bottles, food bits – you get the picture. You can see that scene any day of the week on the streets of my city, Toronto. I don’t recall 11 years ago any special effort being launched to tell WYD visitors not to litter Toronto. In our city, we flush money into cleanups afterwards.
We can learn from Rio and should be watching closely to see the results of its intention to get litter-tough, educate and change the behaviour.
Churches can do more to promote non-littering habits. I covered this topic in a previous blog. I am heartened to know that from The Pope on down to the streets of Copacabana, this litter prevention message seems to be gaining traction.