Broken glass and needles: the waste pickers scraping a living at Jordan’s landfills | Source: The Guardian, August 27, 2016 |
At Al Huseyniyat landfill, Syrian refugees salvage recyclables illegally. Efforts to formalise their work offer hope
Without warning the bulldozer accelerates, cutting through mounds of waste at Al Huseyniyat landfill in northern Jordan. A lingering stench intensifies as the machine scoops up an armful of rubbish, discharging clouds of flies over a group of people rifling through bin bags nearby.
No one notices the disturbance. Their gazes are trained downwards as they sift through the morning’s waste. “We look for plastic, aluminium, metal, clothes – anything we can sell or keep, or sometimes eat,” says Mohammed Ali, an Egyptian who makes a living salvaging recyclables from the site.
Ali manages a team of 15 waste pickers – men, women and children – most Syrians from nearby Za’atari refugee camp. They earn around 10 Jordanian dinar (£10.90) a day. “It’s not a lot but I make enough to manage on,” says Nawras Sahasil, a 21-year-old Syrian refugee who supports his wife and two children on the 250 dinars a month he earns from the landfill.
Like most people here, Sahasil does not have a work permit. While the Jordanian government has gone some way towards easing restrictions on employment for Syrian refugees, the vast majority are still working illegally. Now, a number of organisations in Jordan are looking to formalise the work of waste pickers and harness their role as recyclers to address the country’s mounting rubbish crisis, while developing sustainable solutions for processing waste in the future.
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