The smell was a trumpet in the nose that left her without reaction. It was 2001 and Carolina Pallero, one of the thousands of Argentines expelled by the system crisis,
He set foot for the first time in the open-air dump of El Borbollón, in Las Heras, Mendoza. He was 24 years old and the panic to prick himself with a needle, cut his hands or find a body buried among the mountains of debris – “every once in a while”, his companions warned him – ended up derailing her.
It lasted a year and a half in the landfill. He preferred to carton again in the street, pushing the cart that his grandfather used to prepare cement and she borrowed it.
Today, remember how it changed all the afternoon of 2018 when the bell rang at home and the offer came to join the cooperative El Algarrobo. “They trained me, they gave me the appropriate clothes, a social work and everything that has a decent job, which is what I always want and it came true,” says Carolina, 43. And he adds: “I think society is increasingly aware of the importance of what we do.”
According to estimates of the Argentine Federation of Cartoneros, Carreros y Recyladores (Faccyr),
In Argentina, more than 150,000 people work recovering recyclable materials in urban centers or in landfills: 15,000 of them are grouped in the 120 cooperatives represented in the Faccyr, while the rest works on their own.
Per month, they recover at least 200,000 tons of materials, generating a significant impact on the environment, urban hygiene and the circular economy.
Although the majority of cartoneros and cartoneras continue in a situation of great precarious work, the organization in cooperatives and the promotion of projects that articulate the public, private and governmental sector, has generated in recent years a radical change in the quality of life of many of them and their families.
The concept they seek to install is that of “inclusive recycling”, which prioritizes recovery and recycling, recognizing and formalizing recuperators as key actors.
What is it like to work in the open pit dump of El Borbollón, Mendoza
“Since the jump in fractional consumption and the emergence of plastic in the market,
the role of the recuperators became substantial, taking into account that this material takes 500 years to degrade and, when it does, it is highly polluting, “says Alicia Montoya, responsible for the technical team of the El Alamo Buenos Aires cooperative and a reference in the subject.
Specialists agree that society is beginning to recognize the impact of an activity borne by marginalization, which hatched in 2001 and grows in times of crisis. To a greater environmental awareness is added to understand that, what for many is garbage, for others it is the sustenance of their families.
Cooperatives seek to break the exclusion and involve workers
access to elementary rights such as having a monotax, having a retirement and complying with health and safety standards. In addition, they fulfill a fundamental community role. There are training and training spaces; programs to finish primary or secondary school; In addition to trades workshops.
With respect to the cartoneros and cartoneras that are not grouped in cooperatives, Alejandro Valiente, of the Faccyr technical team – which is part of the Confederation of Workers of the Popular Economy (CTEP) -, argues: “Surely they are in the worst conditions and we have not yet been able to help them organize, which is what is missing.
There are also nuances within the cooperatives: some managed to establish inclusive recycling systems and comprehensive urban waste management plans that contemplate them, but many others do not“.
Each worker recovers, on average, about 100 kilos of recyclable materials per day – the equivalent of what 100 people generate –, which will not end up in rivers or open-air dumps, which implies significant savings for waste management and promotes circular economy. They are suppliers of an industry that, with these materials, regenerates others. “For every worker on the street there are eight jobs that are generated in the recycling industry,” says Montoya.
Florencia Rojas, coordinator of the Inclusive Recycling Project of the Avina Foundation for Argentina, underlines that
without public policy there is no inclusive recycling: “Without a decision of the municipal government to accompany these projects, implement them and have the regulatory framework that is needed, it is impossible for them to have a stable and long-term future,” he says.
Without a decision by the municipal government to accompany these projects, implement them and have the regulatory framework that is needed, it is impossible for them to have a stable and long-term future.
Florencia Rojas, Avina Foundation
From Avina they affirm that
60% of municipalities have disposal only in open-air dumps, which are major sources of environmental pollutionl. “In the region, and compared to other countries, there is a delay in the management of solid and urban waste. We need to get going,” says Rojas.
A population traversed by structural poverty, where the majority did not complete high school and a significant percentage, not even primary school. That is the profile of the cartoneros and cartoneras in the country, which includes families that have up to four generations dedicated to that work. The concept of “recycling with inclusion” implies a comprehensive follow-up and sustained support to families: that the children go to school and have the vaccination schedule up to date, as well as that the great ones are trained, are priorities.
Carolina highly values her work at El Algarrobo, which in turn is part of the El Alamo cooperative. “Before the money was enough for only a kilo of bread or rice, now I can help pay taxes. I feel great!” Says Mendoza, who lives with her parents in the Independencia neighborhood of Las Heras. “I not only go for the material, but for the personal: I left the well,” he says.
Now I not only go for the material, but for the personal: I left the well
Carolina Pallero, El Algarrobo cooperative
In the city of Buenos Aires there are 12 cooperatives that work through agreements with the Buenos Aires government. They include about 5100 recuperators and collect 500 tons per day of recyclable material among the more than 7000 of waste generated. The largest in the country and the region is El Amanecer de los Cartoneros, with 3974 associates, of which 54% are women.
But the fan is big. The Alamo has 158 workers with different functions. Hilda Díaz is an environmental promoter and group coordinator. She is 56 years old and arrived in the City from San Salvador de Jujuy at 17. With a life crossed by violence and an alcoholic husband, she was the sole supporter of her five children. He began to carton when the elder, who is 38 today, was small. In his car, he carried between 250 and 300 kilos per day – his bones still hurt – at a time when waste separation was a utopia. He took the boys with her, because he had no one to leave them with.
Hilda, who went to school until 7th grade,
He says the cooperative changed his life, his job, his house. “Before I paid my salary and spent that day. Then I went to work schedules and could take my children to school or organize to leave them with someone. I had social work and I kept saving money to buy bricks,” he says. Today his house is made of material, with a bathroom inside: “It is luxurious! I always worked to achieve this,” he says. And he adds with a smile: “My children studied and are working.”
Like her, the vast majority of women who carton are heads of household. In general, cooperatives fulfill different tasks of organization and management. “The majority of the delegates and coordinators are women,” says Brave.
With respect to the income generated in the cooperatives and how they are distributed, Montoya explains that in the case of El Alamo none of its members have incomes lower than the basic basket. “We have a formula: to what the basket costs, we subtract the incentive paid by the City government to the workers, which is 15,000 pesos, and the rest is set by the cooperative taking into account not only the amount of kilos of recovered material, but the assistance, the use of uniform, the route of the entire route and the completion in schedule, “he describes. But that is far from being the reality of many workers. The situation of each municipality is uneven.
From cooperatives and associations such as Avina, they agree that the main debts of the State are, on the one hand, the need to implement as soon as possible a national program for the recovery of recyclable materials that includes the work of cooperatives. On the other, the enactment of a packaging law that provides extended responsibility to the producer who uses plastics, to take over the management of such waste.
“There is no possibility that the cooperative system works unless it is paid by the private sector or the State subsidy to that fundamental public service provided by recyclers. Otherwise, what you generate is the exploitation of poor to poor: growth of sheds that super-exploit the cartoneros who work in hiding, “Montoya concludes.
. (tagsToTranslate) Cartoneros: a work still little recognized (t) but key for the care of the environment – LA NACION
Publicado en el diario La Nación