21 June 2012
Last updated at 01:38
The favela, or shanty-town, of Morro do Borel is perched on the side of a hill behind the Rio beaches. The narrow, winding streets in combination with the presence of armed gangsters made waste a big problem for residents, with garbage trucks unable to access the community.
This was more than a cosmetic problem. Festering waste caused health issues; and in April 2008 a big downpour sent floodwater pouring down the hillside, sweeping away homes at the top of the hill and washing decaying garbage into homes at the bottom.
Many of Rio de Janeiro's favelas have been transformed in recent years as the city gears up to host the 2014 football World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. In 2010, armed police and soldiers "pacified" Borel, forcing drug barons to leave, along with their guns.
Claudia Sabino Marques, director of three nursery schools in Borel, recalls it was "like Gaza" before pacification. There were "huge amounts" of rubbish in the streets. The gang at the top was at war with the one at the bottom, making passage virtually impossible.
After pacification, the UPP - the "social police" - came into the favela. Asked what they wanted, one answer residents gave was "proper waste collection". With the help of local authorities and the Federation of Industry, it is now happening.
Now, a garbage truck does the rounds in Borel twice at day.
At 23 sites dotted around the favela, 127 standard waste bins are distributed. Signs ask people not to throw their rubbish on the ground but rather to stick it in the bin, and not to park by the bin point.
Borel and a number of other favelas lie right next to the Tijuca Forest, a fragment of the once-mighty Atlantic Forest. Cleared for coffee plantations about 200 years ago, Tijuca is now seeing a rapid reforestation campaign.
Romolo Madeira from the Mutirao reforestation organisation plants trees in Tijuca and in the favelas themselves. The organisation has programmes in a number of favelas and run nurseries. The project also gives employment to favela residents.
Kite-flying and - inevitably - football seem to be favourite leisure activities in Borel. The favela has aquired a football pitch on top of the hill that looks down on the world-famous Maracana Stadium.
Peace has increased investment in schools and the library.
But the real symbol of Borel's transformation should perhaps be the dustman making his rounds twice a day, and the consequent cleanliness of the streets.