top of page

   Geographical  Magazine - The Waste Pickers

 In Loving Memory of Jesus center photo  ....  Jesus  was only  twenty eight  years old   he was  also a   father of two young children ......   Jesus  was beaten  and left to die in a  Mexico city alleyway when  Jesus  limp body  was found and taken  to hospital he was only just breathing ..... it was to late to save  Jesus he died on the operating table from  the horrendous internal damage he suffered  ..... RIP  Our Friend  we love you 

   Below is a extract from Geographical magazine written by Erin Riddell


 Jesus leads the way, walking ahead of the lumbering vehicle ringing his bell, a town crier heralding the truck’s arrival. From houses emerge wives, husbands, children, grandparents each lugging plastic bags full of waste, empty boxes and miscellaneous items; old lamps, bicycle tyres, tree stumps.


Mexicans, as a general rule, do not recycle. Nor are they encouraged to, as systems for recycling typically do not exist. They do, however, appear to engage in one act of personal recycling: the rubbish bags themselves. Almost invariably, residents shake out their well used rubbish bags into the truck’s tray and carry them, now empty, back inside.  


At each point of collection Uriel, Hector and Jesus sort the waste rudimentarily by hand in the tray of the truck. Non-recyclable waste is sorted into organic and inorganic, stored in large metal vats at the bottom of the truck, while the recyclable goods are organised into various bags and shelves around the truck.


I watch the lads, their ungloved hands, feet unprotected in flip flops and bare eyes.  Exposure to bacteria, inhalation of dust, mould and fumes, splashes of acrid bin juice all normalised as daily routine. For me, I find the smell of rot and fermentation overpowering and observe that, already - it is just 8 o’clock - my hair is stiff from dust.


In Mexico, like most of Latin America, toilet paper is not flushed. It is collected in bins near the toilet, and then put out as any other waste. Sorting rubbish by hand means rummaging bare handed through the excrement, urine, menstrual blood and other bodily fluids everyday.


Along the way we meet Anilu Gonzales and Jose Daniel Corona Granados. They are street sweepers and to my surprise allies, not competitors, of trucks like that of Uriel. Anilu, 40 years old and nine years a street sweeper, collects waste from houses, streets and gutters and delivers her entire load to the boys for around 40 pesos (USD$3.80). Each day she will unload between 5 and 8 cartfuls, enough to secure her between  200 - 400 pesos, plus neighbourly tips. Like the government truck driven by Uriel, Jose’s cart is branded with Mexico City's iconic fluorescent pink and black motif.


At 71 years old and 30 years in the game, Jose is delighted to speak with us. He lives nearby with this family and knows the area well. Through his grey cataracted eyes a life of endurance shines through. Despite his age, he is muscular and strong. Hair immaculately combed and face shaved, he works with a different truck but is on amiable terms with Uriel’s crew. He bids us a good day and continues on his round.

bottom of page