Steel stealers and consumer electronic recyclers

As an avid city explorer, I am always amazed at the items people trash; loitering and trashing practices is of tremendous interest to me. I am impressed by trash bags, dirty piles of garbages, plastic bags with shredded paper... there's a lot to learn from a culture based on that (I won't enter too much into ethnographical issues related to that). And of course this is something that I document, with pictures mostly. Anyway, the other day I stumbled across this very common landscape depicted in the following picture (seen in Madrid, Spain). "Common" is a sad and pragmatic word to express the fact that in occidental cities I visited I often encountered trashed consumer electronic.

Trashed computer

And then... I saw those two guys with trolleys, they were carrying some electric wires and trashed machines left on the street. They're the ones who collect the stuff out of the street but mmhmm they don't wear any city badges or superb uniforms that would make kids want to be like them in the near future. The reason why is that those person collected electronic devices and steel for recycling and selling some pieces on the black market. This is absolutely not uncommmon and I have seen similar behavior in Geneva (where I live). Steel stealers

And at the same time, I was reading Mike Davis' "Dead Cities: And Other Tales", there is one of the chapter about black economy and immigrants in LA that struck me as very close to those pictures:

"The Sisyphean task of Eduardo and Miguel is to smash up everything in order to salvage a few components that will be set to England for the recovery of their gold content. Being a computer breaker is a monotonous $5.25-an-hour job in the Black economy (...) Miguel is about to deliver a massive blow to the VDT of a Macintosh when I ask him why he came to Los Angeles. His hammer hesitates for a second, then he smiles and answers, "Because I wanted to work in your high-technology economy.""

Why do I blog this? this perfectly describes what happen in our world filled with tech devices, there are practices related to them that are unexpected and can have considerable consequences (in terms of ecology, health, economy...)