‘Cartoneros’, or ‘recyclers’, have become one of the enduring consequences of the Argentinean economic crisis of 1999 – 2002, when the peso devalued by 70 per cent.
Their job has meant dramatic results for the environment by reducing the amount of solid waste going into landfill by 25 per cent.
Cartoneros collect cardboard, plastic and glass from the more salubrious neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires and then sell it to recycling companies.
According to some estimates, there are now 30,000 cartoneros in Buenos Aires. While Argentina shows signs of economic recovery, entire families are looking for garbage on the streets in order to translate their findings into cash, in a job that pays less than $10 per week.
The Indian equivalent are the ragpickers and they usually have a gunny sack that is used to carry the “useful waste”, usually on their backs.