When we were posted in Ethiopia, we were fascinated by the small carts pulled around by men and many young boys, who would go through the trash and retrieve things of value. In the years that followed, we also saw the scene in Turkey and now I see it in Brazil.
Once I arrived in Brazil four years ago, I had unpacked all my shipment and had to flatten and store my boxes into a bathroom until I could figure out how to get rid of them.I contacted the Consulate to change out some furniture and when the delivery guys saw my stack of cardboard, they asked if I wanted them to haul them off. I said “sure”. In a matter of minutes, the cardboard was gone and the guys were all smiling. I realized cardboard collections bring in money.
So, that explains all the guys pulling carts around the city, digging into trash bins to collect anything of value, especially cardboard. I see many of these collectors in the streets near our apartment. Here is a mess of pictures collected of the collectors. Mostly from the balcony. The guy in the back of the truck is flattening the boxes as they drive along. I have watched many of these guys throughout the city and I sometimes find myself a little envious of them. There are some that have their families that walk with them, and sometime I see their children riding in the cart. But to be able to roam where you want and pick up things of value, seems pretty low stress. These guys have command of the streets. When they want to cross over, they just start crossing, sometimes diagonally across an intersection. Cars are forced to stop. When the weather is nice as it is most of the time, it’s mild exercise with somewhat fresh air. When it rains, they stop the cart and sit under it for a spell. No bosses, no HR departments, no taxes to pay, no overhead costs, etc. I told Dani that we may just stay here in Brazil and I will collect cardboard. She just ignores me.