Cuba: The Hard Work of Gathering Recyclables

trabajo-duro1Photo Feature by Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — For a long time the streets of Havana have seen people moving “carts” that transport empty containers, cardboard, newspapers, large sacks. Very few passersby recognize the sacrifice these people make by picking up recyclables daily and taking them to their destination points, while cleaning streets of debris.

Starting early in the morning we see them out on our streets in search of that “latica” (beer can) which are like trophies in a game.  They walk for miles, looking at the corners, in the trash bins, in places they imagine there was an activity the night before and thus a chance for a good find.

Trabajo-duro-3AWe run into them alone on a corner under the sweat of the effort to crush thousands of “little cans” with any object, whether a stone, a piece of iron, and then introduce them into their sacks and transport them to the recycling centers where they are weighed.

There, tired, they wait for the arrival of personnel. It can take hours to receive their money for their merchandise.

trabajo-duro-4Many are unhappy with what they get paid, others feel cheated, some speak in fear of expressing something against ideology, some say nothing. In short, who is responsible for all these irregularities? Is there a solution?

Click on the thumbnails below to view all the photos in this gallery. On your PC or laptop, you can use the directional arrows on the keyboard to move within the gallery. On cell phones use the keys on the screen.

4 thoughts on “Cuba: The Hard Work of Gathering Recyclables

  • Cuba is not a “state capitalist” country. It is a Marxist socialist country. Please don’t try to play that silly game of moving the labels around so you can continue to believe in your failed Marxist ideology.

  • Recycling is a global ecological necessity and needs to be organised in the most effective way. Unfortunately in this scenario it is left to the poorest of the poor who do it for economic rather than ecological reasons Many countries used to have a deposit system for returnable bottles. In Cuba that does not exist for drink containers sold in CUC. Am I correct in thinking that the value of a can or bottle is about 1 CUP moneda nacional. No wonder many of those who can afford the drinks discard the containers anywhere including by throwing them out of moving vehicles.The deposit should be closer to 0.10 CUC to impact changes to people’s behaviour. (In Germany there is also a deposit on drink cans.) Once again state capitalists have copied the worst excesses of private capitalists and confused it with progress. The only way to deal with the resource limitations on our planet is through education plus a regulated system of compulsory recycling. The old ways no longer serve.

  • The irony here is that the same people that Castro said the revolution would benefit the most are the people most likely to be limited to collecting recyclables to survive. All honest work is noble and dignified but the increasing failure of the revolution to make good on its fundamental promises is principal among the many reasons the regime is in its last days.


    “Theoretically this “initiative” benefits Cuba’s recycling efforts, reducing imports and furthering national industry development, but despair, hunger, need and poverty are consequences of the Cuban government taking advantage of its elderly citizens to obtain raw materials. In the garbage dumps we find people who are ill, shoeless and physically challenged, searching for cans in a heap of filth and unsanitary conditions, susceptible to all sorts of infectious diseases.”

    The exploitation of the elderly to collect cans for recycling is not an “irregularity”. It’s the official policy.

Comments are closed.