Saturday, November 5, 2011

'Mining' Trash

Guatemala Trash Miners
In this photo taken Thursday Oct. 6, 2011, a man holds up a gold ring he found as he was searching for scrap metal in contaminated water at the bottom of one of the biggest trash dumps in the city, known as "The Mine," in Guatemala City.

Last month  in "Working at the Dump" I wrote about people around the world who work and sometimes live in their city's waste. Here, in the Huffington Post, "Guatemala Trash 'Miners'," everyday people descend 300 feet into a ravine below a landfill and amid "foul odors, the danger of unstable piles of garbage collapsing and the chance for heavy rain to suddenly raise the water level" dozens search for jewelry and other metal scraps that remain behind when the lighter garbage washes away. They can make the equivalent of $20 a day or more, as good as a regular job for the poor of this country. Though illegal and dangerous - some 'miners' have died while others have suffered broken bones in flash floods in the ravine - the work can be lucrative.

These 'miners' are modern day hunters and gatherers, finding opportunity and resources wherever they can. If you are !Kung, you can roam the Kalahari desert, hunting giraffe and other wild beasts and gathering wild fruits and high protein mongongo nuts. Urban dwellers however need cash to purchase their food and pay for housing. So, if you live in Guatemala City, you head to the landfill hoping to find jewelry or to "collect screws, faucets and other recyclable metal items that" you can sell for 85 cents a pound, eraning twice the minimum wage on average per 'scavenger trip.'

Cultural adaptation for the poor?

 Click here to view the photo essay from the Huffington Post.

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