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Scrap by Scrap, Argentines Scratch Out a Meager Living

She inhales. "Sometimes I do miss my old life where I could just stay home and study."

At the factory, Miguel's take-home pay was $600 per month, he says.

Miguel Machado, an unemployed factory worker, now searches for trash to sell to recyclers. Helped by five of his children, he might make $12 a night. (Fabricio Di Dio For The Washington Post)

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"Is this a job?" he says as he ties Coke bottles together with string. "No, this is a necessity. This is survival. This is so I don't have to steal to feed my family. This is only one step from that.

"I hate this. Everyone who does this hates it."

It is 10 p.m. and the streets are cluttered with cartoneros pushing their loaded dollies, beginning to head for the train or the recycling plants to sell what they've collected. Miguel and Romina push their load slowly, robotically, while the others prance off in the moonlit distance.

"We're done," Miguel says as he makes his way toward the train station with garbage piled nearly six feet high for the 30-minute ride home.

"We'll be back tomorrow."

Special correspondent Brian Byrnes contributed to this report.

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