Homeowners’ garbage is a gold mine for the night army

A midnight recycler left this mess. Photo: A.M. Costa Rica

Call them the army of the night or the midnight recyclers.

They are the vast number of the country’s poor who supplement their living by salvaging what they can from garbage. They mostly are invisible to the average citizen.

They also are some of the same folks who alternate as car guards or any number of other informal and irregular jobs.

There is a good aspect and a bad aspect. The trash treasure seekers recycle items that might otherwise be hauled to a dump and placed in a landfill.

In the negative column are the messes some leave and the possibility that they might come into possession of valuable personal information like credit card or bank statements.

Then, too, some also are crooks who seek any information that might give them access to a home. Others might be psychotic.

The night and early morning before garbage pickup might see five or six of these individuals, mostly men, sorting and inspecting garbage in urban areas. It is not a job for the faint of heart because some of the garbage left in those green plastic bags verge on disgusting.

Typically the trash pickers know the schedules of collection trucks. Others have made deals with homeowners along the route to collect their aluminum cans and newspapers.

Sometimes the competition can generate anger and lasting hard feelings. At other times the trash recyclers can be confrontational.

Generally workers on collection trucks also carry brooms and shovels to remove the mess left much earlier in the day.

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