Based on extensive and long-term ethnographic fieldwork carried out between 2002 and 2009, and by analysing the presence, use and struggles over public space of cartoneros and vecinos in middle-class and central neighbourhoods of the city of Buenos Aires, this article examines practices, moralities and narratives operating in the production and maintenance of social inequalities. Concentrating on spatialised interactions, it shows how class inequalities are reproduced and social distances are generated in the struggle over public space. For this, two social situations are addressed. First, we explore the way in which cartoneros build routes in middle-class neighbourhoods in order to carry out their task. Second, we present an analysis of the eviction process of a cartonero settlement in the city.