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Informal Transborder Recycling on the U.S.-Mexico Border: The Cartoneros of Nuevo Laredo

Martin Medina


This paper examines the informal recovery of cardboard by Mexicans in Laredo, Texas, which is then recycled in Mexico. Cardboard collecting in the area shows strong backward and forward linkages with the formal sector and with the international economy. Scavenging in the area illustrates the ongoing international economic integration between Mexico and the U.S. The paper challenges previous characterizations of scavengers as being poor and marginal; argues that scavengers should be categorized as informal entrepreneurs, and advocates the use of a joint qualitative/quantitative methodology in the study of scavenging. It also argues that public policy should support scavenging activities.

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Print ISSN: 0886-5655
Online ISSN: 2159-1229