Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Necessity is the mother of invention: scavenging for survival

La Línea (Photo: Europa Sur)
CAMPO DE GIBRALTAR For many, rummaging in the rubbish is a matter of survival. The number of people doing so, according to several sources, has increased dramatically over the last year. The head of Cáritas (the Catholic charity) in La Línea, José Luis Mérida, for example, says that his organization has noticed that the number of people scavenging in the containers at closing time has gone up, as have those seeking the charity's help. Scavenging for food for personal consumption is just one option. Supermarkets, however, very often throw out packaged goods that have only just reached their sell-by date. These packages often find their way to (mostly) illegal street markets, where they are exchanged for cash. Another option does not involve food at all: discarded items in good condition can often be found at street markets, legal or otherwise. Thus, one child throwing away an unwanted toy can become the delight of another, for instance.>>>Supermarkets can't give away items that are out of date because, should there be a health problem as a result, it would be the entity's responsibility. At about 9pm it is possible to see queues of people lining up behind the larger operations, though queuing is no guarantee of a first line place by the containers. Fights often erupt around them. A squashed yoghurt tub is not the same as an unblemished one; a torn packet of sliced ham does not fetch as much as a pristine one ...

But food is not all, as we said. Sometimes -increasingly often- one can spot a well dressed man or woman checking through a container or a bag of rubbish. They will be looking for items that can be sold at a flea market or even a charity fair. Toys, old lamps, crockery, you name it, cleaned up and given a very low price: good business.

Most of the very new Councils all over the Campo are saying that they are aware of the increasing problem ("which we expect to get a lot worse," said one unofficially) and are working toward finding places to set up what used to be known as soup kitchens.

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