Children as young as ten are making a living by sorting through rubbish on the outskirts of the West Bank city Hebron. Following the second intifada in 2000, hundreds of Palestinians previously employed in Israel found themselves without work. By sorting and selling recyclables, often at night, young boys and grown men are able to provide a small amount of money for their families. A recycling initiative of sorts, Maan news agency nonetheless describe an unbearable scene of rotting organic matter and “chemical effluvia.”Rubbish from neighboring Palestinian towns is brought to this dump, surrounded by cypress-tipped hills and nearby olive groves. Often the trucks come at night, which encourages workers to stay at on site in a makeshift shanty village.
Shacks made from old wood planks and covered with tarpaulin or plastic trash bags are temporary housing for trash workers eager to make a bit of extra money or reluctant to travel to their home town Yatta. Maan says that the workers sort through vegetable scraps, washing liquid bottles, old clothes, and soda cans.
To cope with the sun and stench, some of the boys wear Kaffiyas over their heads. They pull anything valuable from the dump – wood, aluminum, plastic, steel – and add it to their pile.
One boy told the news agency that they each have their own pile and there are no bosses. Some of the materials are transported to Hebron, where they are consolidated and sold for reuse in Israel and elsewhere.
Clothes that can be washed and reused are kept aside for themselves.
Some of the boys left school and started working in the dump after the main breadwinners were no longer able to provide – either because of an injury, or in one case, death.
One boy told Maan the “Jewish garbage is better than Arab garbage” because it contains more steel. This work fetches up to 30 Shekels or $8 a day.
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