We learned the true meaning of the phrase, "One man's trash is another man's treasure."
We followed the flow of trash from the household all the way to the recycler. At the end of the day we visited the scrap dealer wholesale market, where all sorts of waste is sold in bulk to merchants who will turn around and sell the valuable waste to recycling facilities.
It was interesting to see how many hands touch the waste from throughout the waste channel.
The market was a vibrant community of busy workers who were cleaning and aggregating the waste they are trying to resell. We walked through the streets and saw incredibly diverse shops and types of waste.
Plastics, metals, sand, gravel, newspaper, bottles, cardboard, wire, etc. You name it, it was there.
We felt very welcomed by everyone throughout the community and were happily convinced by the local children to take pictures of them as they struck a pose.
It was amazing to see such a busy place, that is fueled from the trash of a rapidly developing nation. The system is not perfect; many workers in the waste sector live and work in difficult conditions but the they are incredibly efficient, capable of squeezing every ounce of value out of the waste. The recycling rates among these workers are quite good, so what can we learn here that can be applied back in the U.S.?