Cover of the journal City. In this photograph (taken in 2005) one can see two cartoneras at work in Barrio Norte, an affluent neighborhood in northern Buenos Aires. In Argentina, cartoneros are poor people who collect and sell paper products and other recyclables in order to survive. The appearance of cartoneros in high profile urban public spaces in search of recyclables has been one of the most visible and lasting effects of the 2001–2002 economic collapse of Argentina. This essay examines the origins of cartoneros in Buenos Aires and Gran Buenos Aires, their relationship with the state, and the formalization of their gathering activities by the authorities and the recycling industry. The article about cartoneros published in the same issue of this journal is available here.