Images by Keith Dannemiller.
My portrait project, Los Throwaways, is another station on a continuing photographic journey over the past 25 years in Mexico. It is an encounter with a group of â€˜pepenadoresâ€™, garbage separators, who spend their day picking over and recycling some four thousand metric tons of refuse out of the thirteen thousand generated each day by the megalopolis that is Mexico City. A sufferable job, but one that has nonetheless sustained generations of families. These men and women work at the Bordo Poniente (Western Edge), which will be closed permanently on December 31, 2011. The long-standing tradition of the pepenador in Mexican society is slowly disappearing, but more importantly, some 1500 laborers will be out of work. Fortunately, a good portion of the trash of modern society that they sort is, in one way or another, recyclable and even reusable; sadly, as is usually the case, they and their jobs are not. For me, this project presents the possibility to discover directly something of the lives of this rather recalcitrant, closed group. They operate on their own, with tenuous ties to city authorities and outsiders. But the fact that they represent an outmoded work model places them in an extremely vulnerable position. Asked what they plan to do when left without a job, most have no idea.
(Yes. Bordo Poniente is closing. It is said to be the one of the 5 largest dumps in the world. The city government argues it is for the best, since the contamination it provokes in the area is extremely high: it releases almost 1.5 million tons of methane per year, according to the Clinton Foundation. The new plans promise new methods of recycling, greener areas, cleaner air, the possibility of rescuing the lake near by. So we shall see what we shall see. Though, meanwhile, as Keith points out, it is strange how ‘sustainable solutions’ rarely take the local human element into account.)