"One day Cleonice Bento glimpsed something particularly shiny among the rotten food and plastic bottles.
I found a Portuguese gold necklace, sold it and built a two-storey house," she recalls. She even had enough money left over to take a holiday from rubbish-picking for another month.
Geraldo Oliveira, a 63-year-old known as Brizola, uncovered a treasure trove of a different kind.
Nestled inside a tube among the rubbish he found $12,000 (£8,000). And then $9,000 (£6,000) more.