Sunday, November 06, 2011

Does It Pay To Be A Garbage Miner?

This past week in my microeconomics class, we read a chapter about trash in the book The Economics of Public Issues. It raised the issue of how can we reduce the amount of trash we have and how do we get rid of the trash we do have.

For some people, though, going through garbage is a job. See Guatemala's trash 'miners' risk lives to find gold by ALBERTO ARCE of the Associated Press. Excerpts:

"A torrent of gray, toxic water spews from a drainage tunnel and surges along the ravine, tumbling along garbage that has fallen from the Guatemalan capital's main landfill 1,000 feet (300 meters) above.

Despite the foul odors, the danger of unstable piles of garbage collapsing and the chance for heavy rain to suddenly raise the water level, dozens of people are busily at work searching for jewelry and other metal scraps knocked loose from the trash."

One worker said:

""I found a bracelet with 9 grams (0.32 avoir ounces) of gold. I got 2,000 quetzals ($256) for it."

It may not seem like much, but it's almost as much as the monthly $270 minimum wage in this Central American nation."

"If the scavengers don't find jewelry, they collect screws, faucets and other recyclable metal items that they can sell for 85 cents a pound. That amounts to twice the minimum wage for an average trip.""

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