Does your old lunch bag go in the garbage or the recycle bin? For hundreds of thousands of garbage scavengers worldwide who make a meager living by collecting, recycling and reselling trash, that decision is worth its weight in cash.
But at the end of this month, the world’s largest dump will close, leaving many scavengers without a livelihood.
The closure of Mexico City’s Bordo Poniente dump, which will divert nearly 12,600 tons of garbage into recycling and composting plants daily, reports the Associated Press, is a win for environmental groups. It’s also a win for the city’s mayor, Marcelo Ebrard, who announced the closure will take place December 31, the day before he steps down to focus on his campaign for the 2012 presidential race, the LA Times reports.
But trucking the garbage directly to sorting plants leaves out a key player in the waste management system—dump dwellers who for decades have sorted much of the trash and sold the recyclables for income, like freelance garbage collectors.
If the city agrees as promised to negotiate with the guild that the garbage scavengers have organized to voice their concerns, it could mean formal jobs for pepenadores, jobs that pay many times more than what they earn now reselling what they find. After all, living on the dump creates a level of trash expertise and relying on it for an income is quite an incentive to sort it efficiently. They’ve been greasing the wheels of the old system for years; it seems only fair they be part of the new one.