Stock image of trash dump, Shutterstock.
Gaza produces roughly 1,000 pounds of waste every day and until now most of it has gone untreated. But a new recycling plant situated very close to the border with Egypt has recently opened to manage some of this waste, which is otherwise scattered throughout farmlands or in the case of Sofa, piles up in a mound that is 30 meters high.
Residents have complained about the teaming hill that attracts vermin and releases methane gas, but officials have run out of space to distribute the waste. So when university professor Samir al-Afifi proposed to open a small recycling plant in Rafah, both the municipality and Friends of the Earth Middle East rallied to support the project.
“Once Samir al-Afifi managed to get an approval for his project proposal, we started contacting some local mechanics to design equipment we needed,” Mohammad al-Neirab, an engineer at the factory told The Electronic Intifada.
Many of the materials required to build the plant, which is able to process approximately 50 tons of waste every day, were smuggled through underground tunnels from Egypt because of limits imposed by Israel.
For now the plant only serves Rafah, which has a population of 180,000, and it is staffed by women from impoverished families. They are employed for three week stints and earn $350. When their contract comes to an end, an additional 26 women are brought on board so that a greater proportion of the community can benefit.
It’s nasty work that involves sorting through teaming waste to separate organic waste from solid waste. The former is converted into fertilizer that is then distributed to local farmers.
One of the factory engineers Mohammad al-Neirab, who is also a FoEME board member, told the paper that there are several ways the plant needs to be improved. In addition to upgrading the sand floor so that harmful pollutants don’t leach into the ground and affect the area’s water supply, none of the ten machines in the plant are useful for recycling paper or metal.
“Al-Neirab hopes to export such waste to other countries, which have the capacity to recycle it,” wrote Rami Almeghari.
Still, there is hope the plant will eventually expand so that it can also service nearby Khan Younis as well, and handle a total load of up to 150 pounds of waste a day.