Barbara, her daughter and granddaughter were picking thru an office building's trash on Calle 99 this afternoon, selecting material they could sell - a few of Bogotá's thousands of 'recicladores,' Barbara, a single mother, told me she's been doing this work her whole life. But hopefully her daughters will find more opportunity - all four of them are in school, Barbara said.
In recent years, some of Bogotá's recyclers have become organized and their work formalized, thanks to the work of organizer Nohra Padilla, who recently won the Goldman Environmental Prize. This city is paying them for each kilogram of material they remove from the streets, as well as social benefits. But Barbara hasn't signed up, altho she'd like to.
"There's so much red tape and paperwork," she complained.
Barbara lives in Bosa and comes to this building three times each week to scavenge. Altho this is one of the city's most expensive neighborhood, she said the building employees have been kind to her, even watching over her scavenged material while she works 100th St. A truck arrives after midnight, pays her and takes it away. She earns about 30,000 pesos per day, she said.
After that, she goes back to Bosa - if she can. "When there's no bus, I just sleep on the street," she explained.
But hopefully not in the rain, and not with the little girls.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours