Street Collectors in Lima

With experience being the best way to get a true handle on a particular situation, part of the Foundation’s team present in Lima, including Marco Simeoni, accompanied a group of waste collectors.

Eric Loizeau was among them and shares his experience with us:

“This morning I found myself on a flatbed truck in the open air in the company of a team of ‘official’ street collectors from the town of Magdalena on the outskirts of Lima. Seated on the floor, which has just been hastily cleaned, we’re squashed in next to the others being jolted around by the sudden movements of the vehicle as it trundles along the town’s busy streets. In contrast to the ‘non-official’ collectors, these belong to a well-oiled organisation directly dependant on the town. They gather together at dawn in a run-down, rudimentary-looking building wedged between the circular express way and the sea front, which is being eaten away by erosion. It’s here that we find them busy folding apple green plastic bags designed for recovering the waste.

There are 10 of them in our vehicle, including 2 girls, all clad in jackets sporting the association’s colours with “Magdalena Vamos a Recyclar” (Let’s recycle in Magdalena) marked on the back. José, a slender dark-haired man of around twenty explains to me that they’ll be dropped off in a district of the town for a collection lasting around two hours and involving families who are members of the association and have prepared their recyclable waste in the green bags designed for this purpose.

After spreading out through the streets, they’ll go door to door and then group the bags at the corners of each street so the flatbed truck can pick them up and transport them to a depot where they’ll be sorted and recovered.

We’re surprised to learn that for a town of 60,000 inhabitants like Magdalena, there are only 35 ‘official’ collectors per 30 tonnes of waste produced daily, of which 15% is plastics. José confirms that they’re competing with numerous ‘non-official’ collectors (around double), who work independently for a higher monthly income.

Micaela, the director of the L+1 association, a network of entrepreneurs that is very committed to sustainable development, told us yesterday that this fine organisation is a little bit like a tree hiding in a forest… Indeed, the collection is still not enough given the sheer scale of the waste produced. In this way, even in the favoured districts like the ones we visited, the percentage of families agreeing with the idea of sorting their waste is in the minority, which gives you an indication of the situation in the rest of the town”.

Copyright photo : Eric Loizeau