My walk home from work

3 Mar


…is very different from my walk to work in the morning. Of course. The sun is lower in the sky, the traffic has a different urgency to get through and the bars and cafes are springing to light. The six lane highway that is Avenida De Cabildo begins to become more difficult to cross and at the edges of each block begin to appear – the Cartoneras. There about 20,000 Cartoneras in Buenos Aires who collect, compress, carry in enormous handcarts the cardboard and paper that lies waste in the city every day. This is recycled and sold back into the system.

 According to one report – 

  • 400,000 tons of cardboard and plastic are collected and sold annually.
  • Cartoneros earn $70 million (pesos) annually selling it.
  • By the time it’s passed through middlemen and back into business, it’s sold for $450 million (pesos).
  • There are 20,000 cartoneros today, compared to 40,000 just after the 2001 crisis.
  • 10,500 of them are officially registered with the government.
  • Cartoneros get $0.45 pesos/kilo for white paper, $0.17-$0.20 for cardboard, $0.12 for newsprint, $0.25-$0.30 for plastic bottles and $0.07-$0.10 for glass.
  • The neighborhood bosses who collect from the cartoneros add 20% to the price before they sell the bulk to larger recycling collectors, who add another 100% before they sell it to paper mills as raw material, who themselves sextuple the price when they turn it into finished products that they sell into the public market.
  • Some of the cardboard ends up as part of a new publishing network and producing new books and artworks too.
    The Cartoneras on the corner of Zabala street as I turn to my apartment


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