It’s estimated that over 20,000 ‘cartoneros’ now rummage through BA’s trash heaps and ‘dumpster dive’ their way around the barrios collecting re-cyclable rubbish to sell by weight. In recent years, the city government has also initiated a Ciudad Verde plan where registered cartoneros can collect a base salary for emptying the large bell-shaped recycling bins that are on each and every street corner, picking up an estimated 5000 tonnes of cardboard, metal, plastic and glass – per day! This is in addition of course to the regular city garbage pick-ups.
We saw one such ‘diver’ conscientiously upended in the smart city barrio of Recoleta – quite an amusing sight in one sense. Less funny when you consider the wealth gap represented.
But it is a way to make a meagre living and is so organised here that the cartoneros have their own federation, the Argentine Federation of Litter Pickers.