“You want it in a glass cup with no straw, right, Manu?” The waiters already know the mantra. Whenever Emanuel Burger orders a drink, this phrase comes automatically at the end. He won’t accept anything served in plastic. If you ask for an explanation, his reasons are clear: plastic takes more than 100 years to decompose in nature, and during this time it ends up in the sea and is swallowed by turtles and fish.

So, hold the plastic, please.

When it’s time to serve himself dessert at the lunch buffet, Manu grabs a big ceramic plate used for the main course, so he doesn’t have to use the small plastic plate and spoon offered next to the sweets. It’s a big plate and big spoon to eat just a little dessert, but it gets washed and used again. Why throw anything away?

Manu has just turned eight but has always thought this way. He grew up helping his parents, Erich Burger and Ana Beall, put packaging in the recycling bin and take care of the compost, where worms turn their organic waste into fertilizer for the garden in his building complex, in the city of São Paulo. You will never find a plastic bag in his house. And any food packaging that comes into the home has to be recyclable. All this reflects a commitment on the part of Manu’s father, Erich, who runs Recicleiros (Recyclers), an NGO working to salvage post-consumer packaging through selective waste collection, with the help of gleaners.

The name Emanuel comes from Immanuel, not in honor of Kant, but rather because of the name’s original meaning, “God is with us.” His parents had an agreement: Ana would pick his name and Erich would pick his soccer team. Now Manu is a Corinthians fanatic, just like his father. He only agreed to the photo if he could wear his club’s jersey. Go, Manu!

A bald white man with a short, black mustache and beard, wearing a long-sleeved red polo shirt, is sitting next to a woman. She has white skin and brown hair tied back, and is wearing a pink shirt. With her left arm, she is hugging a skinny boy with white skin and short brown hair. The boy, wearing a soccer jersey, is holding up a worm in his right hand. All three are smiling at the camera. In front of the family, at the bottom of the photo, is a brown box filled with worms.

Emanuel, with his parents, Erich Burger and Ana Beall, taking care of his compost heap (Photo: Diego da Silveira/Plant-for-the-Planet/Believe.Earth)

This content is supported by UN Environment and is part of the global #BeatPlasticPollution and #CleanSeas campaigns.