Sunday, February 7, 2010

A rubbish job?

In the western world recycling is a very middle-class (supposedly) organised affair. Separate your glass from your paper, from you tins from your cardboard. Certain types of cardboard are not (you are told) suitable for recycling. Organised days of the week for cardboard and other recyclables...

In Cambodia and also a great many other developing countries the whole thing is entirely different. In fact there is a "pecking order" for rubbish picking because recyclables are worth cash... The fact is that recycling in Cambodia is no middle class ecowarrior event - Rather a means of supplementing income or actually making a living. How can you expect your rubbish to be handled in Phonm Penh?

1. First, if you have one your housekeeper will take the pickings. [I didn't have a housekeeper so first pick of the rubbish was...]

2. The security guy who guards your apartment. Once I got wise to the fact that our guys were picking through our rubbish for the best bits I started separating out the best bits for them(plastic bottles, glass and tins) from our rubbish and started handing it over to our security guard direct....


Sweeping - only dust remained in the bin on most days...


3. The moto men might have a look if they have a moment and if they think it will be worth their while...

4. Then the people who trawl the streets going through the bins... (they also collect from the people at 1,2 and 3 above by paying them for their finds)




4. Then the rubbish truck men who would have a good look at any rubbish before throwing the rest in to the truck.... They have special bags for their own personal finds attached to the side of the truck. I guess it is a "perk" of the job.


5. Then, the people who live on the dump. They scavenge through the rest of the rubbish hoping to find recyclables.













6. Finally, the rubbish is then sold to middlemen on the entrance to the dump - they then sell it to recycling companies for profit. A kilo of plastic is worth about 15p and a kilo of of iron or a glass bottle goes for 1.5p.....

The rubbish dump in PP has now closed. You'd think this would be a good thing - No people should be made to work tramping through other people's rubbish. However, this has meant that some of the poorest people are now even poorer and have no source of income. The new dump is going to be a closed site... when the fence is put up that is....

2 comments:

Donna Kemp said...

I enjoyed your commentary re cross cultural pj's - fascinating...in Liverpool too women can be seen wearing PJ's 'to the shops'..all very interesting...

E.M. said...

I genuinely appreciate both the photography and the commentary: I live and work in Phnom Penh myself, but don't have the energy to engage in photo-journalism above and beyond my other jobs.

I recently visited PSE (http://pse.asso.fr/index.php?lang=en) --a charity that at least began as a humanitarian intervention at a dump site.

I see several stages of the garbage processing and recycling phenomenon in my own neighborhood; there's a lot of it to see and a lot to say about it.