A scavenging culture, like that seen in Africa and Asia, is growing in cities across the US
San Francisco's scavengers: a story of gangs, poverty and recycling
16th August, 2011
Scavenging is on the rise in the US and is no longer the exclusive domain of the poor. Felicity Carus reports on San Francisco's attempts to close down this informal sector and its impact on a burgeoning recycling culture
A few steps away from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park lined with eucalyptus and palm trees, a dozen men and women queue with trolleys overflowing with salvaged trash. At 9.30am they are allowed to start the noisy process of separating the cans, glass and plastic bottles before being weighed.
The Haight Ashbury Neighbourhood Centre (HANC) echoes with the clink of glass and the crunch of cans. Years of discarded dregs from fizzy drink cans and bottles of beer and wine makes the weighing area sticky underfoot, and the air stale and sweet.
The majority of those who arrive every morning at the recycling yard with plastic bags and shopping trolleys are some of the keenest recyclers in San Francisco - not for the sake of the environment, but because it’s their only source of income. But that is now under threat.
Victor, 59, turns away with $27.95, after weighing in two barrels of glass, one barrel of cans and 10lbs of plastic. He comes to HANC with recycling he has collected in the city every week. It’s the only work he knows, he says.
Patrick, 51, sleeps rough in the Golden Gate Park, and reckons his haul is worth around $5. He comes to HANC most days because 'I want...
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