By Cristian Frers
Our cities are great consumers of energy and various natural resources. The level of development and the lifestyle that each community has will determine the amount and type of waste produced and its final disposal. This amount of waste produced by all of us must be treated in a suitable way so that it does not contaminate the air, water and the environment that surrounds us, causing, among other things, damage to health.
Our cities are great consumers of energy and various natural resources. They generate tons of waste that increase year after year. The level of development and the lifestyle that each community has will determine the amount and type of waste produced and its final disposal.
This amount of waste produced by all of us must be treated in a suitable way so that it does not contaminate the air, water and the environment that surrounds us, causing, among other things, damage to health.
One of the factors that damages the health of city dwellers is the large amount of garbage that accumulates on unsuitable land. Open dumps are usually one of the infectious sources of many of the diseases that the thousands of people who live in their vicinity contract every day. Statistics indicate that 19% of diseases come from causes linked to the environment. In most cases, those affected are infected through contact with infected pets or rodents or through ingestion of spoiled food. Among the diseases that still persist among us are dengue and cholera.
Many of the materials that make up the garbage could have been reused, that is, recycled. Among the most common we can point out glass, paper, metals, organic waste, which can be used as fertile substances in the soil.
But to be able to do this efficiently, a clear awareness in the population of the benefits for the environment is necessary, which represents the reuse of these elements. For this, it is necessary to implement dissemination campaigns in all areas.
Did you know that half of the objects we throw away constitute unnecessary garbage?
Did you know what's under the ground? There is a lot of water. It runs through underground rivers and from them many people drink the water they use for consumption.
But. How can you take care of the water that is under the ground? The answer is simple. Not throwing residues, especially toxic substances, anywhere. These substances gradually penetrate the earth, especially with the help of rain.
Unfortunately, some people dump their waste on vacant lots, this is imitated by others and in no time a dump is formed.
It must be understood that recycling garbage is creating work. The expiration of the current waste collection system should be used to transfer part of the service to micro-enterprises and cooperatives.
Exclusion, child labor, pollution with a serious risk to health, low life expectancy, are some of the avoidable characteristics in the work of those who collect garbage from the street. Having reached these conditions is not only the immediate consequence of growing unemployment, but also of the absence of inclusive policies and the promotion of forms of production that aim at recycling waste, caring for and preserving the environment.
It is because of this that a debate is urgently needed on: projects for the conversion of the waste collection system, the insertion of cartoneros in formal work and forms of organization, characteristics of the surgeon's work and improvements in the quality of life.
Garbage recycling in Argentina is done, and moves a lot of money, therefore, like many other things, it is done clandestinely. How to do it? Through the cartoneros, who separate garbage by hand while dodging cars, and leave garbage behind outside the bags, since many times they have to tear them open.
I believe that the media can contribute a lot through articles on how the issue is handled in other parts of the world, contributing to the education of the population and exerting healthy pressure on the political leaders of the issue who often make large announcements and then everything is forgotten.
Recycling consists of re-submitting a used material or product to a total or partial treatment cycle to obtain a raw material or a new product, useful to the community.
It could also be defined as obtaining raw materials from waste, introducing them back into the reuse cycle and occurs in the face of the depletion of natural resources and to effectively eliminate waste.
With processes that mix sand or clay with plastic containers, eco-friendly bricks, tiles and slabs for house construction can be made. Many metallurgists use scrap metal as an input for their products. There is a growing industry for recycling PET, plastic from soda and water bottles, with which textile threads are made. The brushes, swabs, brooms, are made with this recycled material.
Vermiculture - the recycling of organic garbage with worms - can be an ecological alternative to conventional landfills. The worms eat their same weight, which is why one kilogram of these worms processes one kilogram of garbage each day.
Corrugated cardboard, that of the boxes, is made entirely with recovered paper, to give just a few examples. This industry, which could grow, is sustained by the work of street collectors who daily and efficiently recover these materials in the marginality and take advantage of what would otherwise end up in an open-air dump.
The thousands and thousands of cartoneros who navigate the streets of the country collect only about 430,000 tons of paper, newspaper and cardboard annually, which represents an income of around 80 million pesos for them. It can be estimated that, when all of this recycled material reaches the store again in different ways, it has a sales value that is six times what the cartoneros receive. In other words, the global business generated by cartoneros amounts to about 500 million pesos per year, only taking into account cellulosic derivatives, which is equivalent to the annual turnover of a company like Quickfood or half of Edenor or Edesur. The bulk of the money generated by the production chain that begins with the cartonero is taken away by a few large companies, demonstrating that our current waste management system is irrational, uneconomic and uneconomical.
Thus, modifying uses and customs happens, in the first place, to understand the dimension of the issue in which those who produce garbage, those who recycle it and those who generate it interact.
60% of the cartoneros are workers, construction workers, textiles, gastronomy, among others ... who lost their jobs in recent years. They work with their families, exposed to pollution and with a life expectancy of 35 years, being 70 years that of the rest of the Argentine population. Their children join the ranks of child labor that leads to school delay or directly to abandonment, to lower income in adult life, to access to unskilled jobs and to the reproduction of the conditions of poverty that led to their early school dropout.
In summary, the incorporation of street pickers into the formal labor market would reverse the current situation not only with the consequent benefits for this sector, but would also strengthen an incipient industry that in turn would generate jobs and also bring the community to the fore in a common project.
It would be a stimulus to the formation of cooperatives, micro-enterprises or social enterprises so that their place within the waste collection system is recognized. In this way, the State could replace the scheme of work plans for genuine jobs, developing productive enterprises that should have, as a basic input, recovered materials.
Cristian Frers - Senior Technician in Environmental Management and Senior Technician in Social Communication