Tuesday, January 13, 2015

They’re known as Recyclers

They can be seen at all hours, in all areas of the city. Sometimes it’s a man, but usually it’s a woman by herself or occasionally with a child or two. Some of them have a small two-wheeled cart but mostly the things they collect are put into the ragged polyethylene bags slung over their shoulder.

When the bags are full the recycler will find a place to sit and reorganize the bag’s contents… flattening out the plastic bottles and cans to make more room; folding any corrugated cartons they may have picked up, and perhaps discarding anything that at second glance won’t earn them anything.

In Milwaukee many years ago we used to call them garbage pickers. I don’t remember my parents or anyone else talking disparagingly about them, but we were told to “stay away from them”, the implication being (at least to us kids) that they were different and perhaps dangerous. It’s not that way in Chiclayo.

In Chiclayo the view of ‘recicladores’ is that they are unfortunate people trying to earn a living the best way they can.  They are not feared nor treated with distain. In fact recyclers who ply the same neighborhoods are often given food or clothing. People save bags of bottles, cans and paper to give to them.

There are several areas on the outskirts of the city where recyclers can sell what they’ve accumulated. Current prices are 7 cents per kilo for paper and plastic, and 14 cents for cans and corrugated paper. The items are ultimately shipped to Lima where several large recycling companies reclaim the raw material.

It is often said in Chiclayo that "any work is honorable work", but it is doubtful that anyone would want to see the kids carrying on that career.

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