by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
Rag pickers exist still to this very day in many countries around the globe and even in some European (Union) Nations. The name, to some great degree, is a misnomer as they are not just picking rags from the rubbish dumps but many other things that can be recycled. They fulfill a valuable service managing waste resources but, unfortunately, they are not being valued by society and governments and instead of receiving thanks they often receive the opposite.
The Gypsy People – or many of them at least – in Eastern Europe are engaged in this activity, as are many people in Third World countries (sorry, I do not do political correctness and refuse to call those places developing nations). Gypsies were also, more often than not, the so-called “Rag and Bone Men” of Britain, and other countries as well, and their activities kept valuable resources of discarded objects out of the waste stream and landfills, then called rubbish dumps or rubbish tips. A task for which they received little thanks. Also in Western Europe many Gypsies were pickers on the rubbish tips, removing those things that the Rag and Bone Man had not gotten his hands on.
There were also, as already indicated, Gypsies in Britain and other West European countries, who operated as pickers on the municipal rubbish tips, before the time the licensed pickers and now the “keep out – recycling” attitude.
Much of my childhood was spent going through rubbish tips myself salvaging items for repair and resale, scrap for sale, or things that could be reworked into something else to sell. I guess that is why I am still today loathed to throw out anything that could just possibly and remotely be upcycled into something “new” or which could come in handy for use in some way or other.
Today, as said, the activity of the picker on rubbish dumps, now called landfills, and especially at waste transfer stations, once upon a time called rubbish tips, is strictly controlled and licensed pickers have to pay fees to the councils for being allowed to rescue resources. Without a license it is considered theft and the same goes, according to law, for removing anything from a dumpster, even if it is not on someone's property. The world has gone mad, I am sure of it.