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Georgia: For Metal Scavengers, a Scrappy Fight to Survive

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Scrap-metal collectors crack open concrete blocks to recover rebar.

A sledgehammer swooshes down and crushes old concrete, revealing rusty reinforcement bars. One more swing and the bar loosens enough to remove it from what once used to be part of a factory wall.

Scrap metal is the messy business that earned Georgia $260 million worth of export revenues in 2012; the country’s second-largest export after used cars. But, for many Georgians, desperate to find jobs in an economy with unofficial double-digit unemployment rates, it is simply a way to survive.

Each morning, seven days a week, cars loaded down with a variety of metals creep through neighborhoods in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi; the drivers using loudspeakers to summon residents to donate their old refrigerators, heaters or ovens.

Mamuka Badalian is one of these drivers. In a 30-year-old car, he cruises through Tbilisi to find the scrap metal that will earn him about 20 to 30 lari (roughly $12-$18) to support his family of six. A former garbage-truck driver, Badalian says he is the only breadwinner in his family.

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Temo Bardzimashvili is a freelance photojournalist based in Tbilisi.

Georgia: For Metal Scavengers, a Scrappy Fight to Survive

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