The role the cartoneros play in Argentina is not new. People have been making a living this way ever since Buenos Aires’ first municipal dump was opened in 1871. In 2001 economic crisis in Argentina closed thousands of factories across the country, putting millions out of work and forcing families to hit the streets trying to making a living. Today, over 30 percent of the country is below the poverty line, with unemployment being one of the chief causes.
One means of bringing in an income for poor residents of Buenos Aires and the surrounding areas is to collect and sell recyclable paper and cardboard. Each night, about 10000 cartoneros walk from the shantytowns on the edge of town towards the city center and wealthy neighborhoods to look for recyclables, often bringing their entire families with them.
I’ve spent one entire week in the streets of Buenos Aires, sharing my days and nights with the cartoneros and their families, facing their hope and diffidence, in an attempt to document and witness their actual situation.