Home Institution

University of Pennsylvania

Publication Date

Fall 2011

Program Name

Argentina: Social Movements and Human Rights


The process of separating and selling recyclable materials in the city of Buenos Aires provides income and livelihood for a large group of outcasted workers. This method of recycling in the Capital Federal city of Argentina involves much more than governmental departments and waste management systems. “Cartoneros” are those who rummage through the city’s trash collecting renewable goods from the disposable.

For decades, the work of cartoneros has been disregarded and cast-aside, labeled as work for the poor or unprivileged. However, the work of these collectors accounts for more than half of the city’s recycling. The government’s minimalist system of trash collection and separation supposedly includes the largest waste generating offices, building, and hotels. This method is not satisfactory for the vast city of Buenos Aires, who has over eleven million residents. Inefficiency is highlighted by the fact that the city web page offers only an informal list of sixty-two companies that utilize the governments hired personal for the recollection of waste. Aside from these recognized buildings, cartoneros account for the recycling of the millions of other consumers in the city.

This study aims to investigate the relationship between the city government and an organized group of cartoneros, known as El Ceibo. Through an investigation of this liaison, this document will examine mechanisms to improve the system of recycling in the city of Buenos Aires, starting with the union of divided cartoneros and ending with the need for a macro, educational movement.


Inequality and Stratification | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Work, Economy and Organizations


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