Many items that rich countries discard are used again

RepurposeThe man in photo above is engaged in a task that is routine in buildings large and small: He is pounding metal rods that have been used previously in construction so they can be used again.

Nails are commonly straightened for re-use, and I posted a photo recently of a mother doing just that with a toddler at her back.

Have you ever seen supports for new floors made of crudely shaped tree trunks?  No?  Well, have a look at the photo below for an instance of them a block from my apartment; their repeated rental looks to me like a big business.

Recycle 13This is a society in which they find ways to salvage almost anything for its original or new purpose.  I noticed a street-corner mechanic the other day restoring a slightly crumpled soda can with its top and bottom removed for a reason that eludes me.

Like more developed countries, the populace finds a way to rejuvenate or repurpose all manner of items.  Nothing with as little as 5 per cent of its life left goes on the trash heap.  Or, if it does, someone will retrieve it.  “Waste” invariably is a five-letter word among the world’s poor.

Clothes 1Clothes 2But here the quality is questionable of what passes for junk elsewhere after repeated recycling.  Such is the case for motorbikes, water bottles, cars, computers or household appliances, among other items.

On roadsides, you often will come across the sale of gasoline that is poured from old soda bottles into motos, battered fencing trundled from construction site to construction site and bicycles long past their prime somehow able to accommodate a rider or two or even three.

Cambodia is not unlike any poor nation, but the gap between what is thrown away in worlds without want and those with endless need yawns achingly.

Below are some examples that I snapped as I strolled around Phnom Penh.

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Rare are Cambodians I encounter who don’t like to be photographed, but I confess that taking their pictures sometimes makes me queasy.  (I feel like a tourist snapping cute poor kids.)

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Used clothing is said to come from China in bales like these. I doubt that it is donated or that Western apparel would fit many Cambodians.  Old clothing from the States usually is shipped to Africa.

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Whole blocks in primarily residential neighborhoods are lined with sights like this.

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Chess anyone? Poor Cambodians waiting for tuk-tuk or moto passengers or on breaks from work love to play card or board games on boards made of cement.  Gambling is officially illegal, officially.

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You most likely would be deluding yourself by thinking that these vehicle parts are new. And safe.

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Vendors and perhaps others seek to salvage wood removed after a fire that damaged or destroyed nearly a third of the Old Market in Phnom Penh’s center. The government refused to fund repairs.

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Curbside moto repair is plentiful with old parts when necessary and ancient equipment. I have seen entrepreneurs such as this one sleeping and washing at night where they work.

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Many Cambodians buy, repair and sell only one sort of old part or device.

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Many stores in discreet neighborhoods sell used motorbikes (motos) and cars (of which most have been imported after having suffered collisions). How customers choose from the ranks of motos eludes me.

e-mail: malcolmncarter@gmail.com

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