Saturday, April 05, 2008

Recycled in Buenos Aires ...

The financial crisis in 2002 left a lot of Argentines out of work, but like every cloud it had a silver lining.

Or in this case, green.

Granted it's little to compensate for the huge-dirty-great-black cloud that is financial collapse, but I doubt whether the cities recycling has ever been in better shape.

As businesses and housholds put their rubbish out every evening, thousands of unofficial recyclers descend on the city centre to sift through the days waste before the refuse collection lorries make their rounds. Cardboard seems to be the major prize on offer here - so much so that they even have a special name for the people that collect it.

Meet the Cartoneros.

Even in the so-called developed world it's fairly common to see the poor and homeless collecting aluminium cans for recycling (in Cambodia we even had kids following us, waiting to collect cans we were mid-way through drinking), but what really impresses here is the collective effort.

Households actually take the trouble to separate out the rubbish that has value (cans, carboard etc.) to make it easier for the recyclers to deal with. I'm not sure which is the biggest motivator, green tendencies, human empathy or just attempts to keep the street clean - either way the effect is great recycling.

I may not have joined the ranks of the Cartoneros, but you'll be pleased to know I'm doing my bit too. Not only do we pre-sort the rubbish from our apartment, but I've been recycling tremendous quantities of glass bottles almost every day over the past month. Beer bottles of course.

The deposit of $1.50 (pesos) on a litre bottle is over half the cost of the actual beer ($2.70) - thus ensuring almost every bottle in the city gets returned to the brewery for refilling. Our local supermarket even reuses the plastic bag you bring the empties back with for the full ones.

I think the current bag has made about 25 trips now ...

My guide to using the Guia T has just been published over on Day 12, where my blog is also featured this month ...