Thursday afternoon in Budapest. Blocks-of-flats residential area in the suburbs. This is where we are headed to talk to the lomizo – people collecting the garbage that is purposefully thrown out by the tenants.

What exactly is lomizo about? On set days in specific districts of the city the citizens are allowed to get rid of the all the things that are no longer of any use to them – by literally putting them out into the street. On the end of the week those huge heaps of garbage are taken away – but before that they are sure to be thoroughly examined by the people scavenging for anything they could use or sell. All the items they found are collected and put aside – now it's not trash anymore, but a property.

The first moments are not very promising. We are not welcome there; the first lomizo we meet among the stacks of stuff do not want to talk to us. Are we going to pay them? No, we're just volunteers, we do not have any money. This doesn't win their favour. Another person reacts angrily to the sight of a photo camera and hurries away.

Fortunately, things get better. Some of the other collectors, as well as the local citizens, are very polite and eager to contribute to our work. They openly share their opinions and describe their lives, even with personal issues. We feel they just want to talk to us – that they are happy that someone is finally interested in them, and they can talk to other people. It's like finding an open door in another person and jumping into it.

We talk to various lomizo. Most of them collect garbage, because they have no other way of earning money. This the only opportunity they have. “We won't be rich”, one of the men says, “but at least we won't steal”. They see it as alternative to crime. Some of them treat it as a real “job”, for other it is just a hobby or a way to earn some additional money when a normal work is not enough to care for their families. One of the older women confesses that this is how she gets clothes for over 30 grandchildren of hers – otherwise they would just run around naked. The hobbyists mainly look for unusual items, which they can later sell on flea markets or remake into pieces of art.

The tenants are not really delighted with this. “This is a circus”, one of the men says. According to him, because of this the area looks worse than 30 years ago – meaning, in the communist times. A woman working in the local shop is complaining about how such a nice district is spoiled by huge stains of trash on every other corner. Should it be organised in a different way? Yes. But how? There is no answer. Who is to blame? We are not surprised, when this question is answered by a long rant on politicians. An invisible, but at the same time impenetrable wall seems to be standing between the government and the people.

This is not the only wall, however. While the two men who blame the politicians refer to the garbage collectors simply as lomi, the shop owner has another name for them: "Roma". She insists that she has nothing against them, but this political correctness is quickly ruined by the complaints about their stay near her block, which consists mainly of drinking alcohol, peeing everywhere and stealing. The shop owner claims to be very tolerant, as she even has one Roma colleague and thinks them a very nice person, but according to her the lomi scavengers are a whole different matter. Are there any non-Roma collectors? No, she has never seen any. Only Roma.

She may have not seen them, but we have - just a several blocks away we meet Hungarians looking for usable items among the abundant old toys, ruined furniture and countless pieces of cardboard. A smiling Roma couple who came to the city for several days - the collecting process can take long, so to save time they do not go back to their village for the night, but sleep in the car - confirm that it is not just a coincidence: there are many "proper" Hungarians between them, searching through and gathering exactly the same stuff as them. So how come they are not seen by the tenants? Are they invisible? In a way, this may be true - the clear distinction between the people who throw out things and those who collect them, between the citizens and poor lomi, between Hungarians and Roma, between "us" and "them" makes it difficult for some to believe that the line separating those two groups may not be as clear as it seems. That it is not that simple.

We look up from the littered ground, up from the faces of the lomi - to the blocks around us. The balconies are empty, which is a bit unnerving, but whichever direction we turn, we see quick movements behind the windows. The curtains are hastily drawn, a dark silhouette looms from behind them. Suddenly we realize that we are being watched. The tenants, hidden in their apartments, are observing the garbage collectors outside. But we are also under constant surveillance. In this "us and them" situation we become lomi as well. The outsiders.

Or maybe it is different? After all, despite all the complaints, the tenants here gathered their old things and threw them out for other people to gather, even in it hurts their aesthetics, makes the district look like garbage dump and attracts people whom they seemingly disdain. We recall the conversations with the tenants who said that lomi live on the items they find in the trash. So deep down, those hiding in their apartments and distancing themselves from outsiders, in the end value other people higher than their own comfort. Is that a shame? Something than needs to be hidden behind a window curtain? We have no answer, but the warm, open smiles of lomi make us wonder about the way of the world.

Dorota & Silvi