Ragpickers save Buenos Aires’ ass

Despised and scorned by many in Argentina, the cartones or “ragpickers” perform a much needed service.

While Buenos Aires has an “official” recycling policy, it is often not followed because of corruption or inefficiency.

The cartones fill the gap. Sorting through much of the city’s trash at night, they collect the recyclable items and pick up some pocket change while reducing the stress on the overburdened landfills.

While cartones have been around since before Biblical times, they have become ever more popular as the economy tanks in industrialized nations like Argentina.

a cartoneros handtruck can way several hundred pounds when full LoRes_JerryNelson 0006

The handcart can weigh several hundred pounds when filled.

cartoneros have to doge traffic LoRes_JerryNelson 0001

Cartones help Buenos Aires reduce costs by going from trash pile to trash pile on the city streets digging for items to be recycled.

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Because of corruption and waste in the city government, trash accumulates on street corners — sometimes for days.

working all night most carton eros sleep during the dayLoRes_JerryNelson 0002

Most of the cartones work hard during the night when everyone else is sleeping.

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