Gov’t seeks to organize work of waste pickers in Jordan

Waste collector- ameer
A waste picker working in an Amman downtown street. (Photo: Ameer Khalifeh/Jordan News)
AMMAN — Jordan’s government wants to establish a body that would organize the work of waste pickers, but economists said it was more viable for specialized firms to do the job.اضافة اعلان

There is an estimated 7,000 waste pickers, working independently and without government licenses in Amman and other governorates, like Zarqa and Irbid, Amman Net reported. Of the total, 22 percent are believed to be Syrian refugees.

Economist Jawad Al-Anani, a former Cabinet minister, told Jordan News that the government should provide scrap pickers with other jobs, and establish companies to deal with collecting recyclables, which include carton boards, paper, and plastics.

Youssef Mansour, also a former minister, said that the government “should ask why these people are directed to work picking garbage?” he proclaimed, referring to the worsening financial conditions of many Jordanian families.

Last March, Oxfam discussed in a meeting it hosted with representatives of non-governmental organizations and representatives of the private and public sectors a recent study it managed, which was compiled by LDK consultants. It purported to assess the condition of the waste sector in Jordan, the situation of waste pickers and their important role in recycling.

NGO representatives were consulted on the report and its most prominent conclusions in order to help issue recommendations that would develop the report before sending it to the stakeholders, including public entities and some private sector institutions, who, in turn, should come up with decisions related to developing and regulating the work of the waste picking sector.

This study was part of the Turning Waste into Positive Energy project funded by the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis, and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. It was implemented through the German Foundation for International Cooperation in partnership with Oxfam.
The motive is economic, not environmental, and when we say that this phenomenon is unregulated, this means that it may have a negative environmental impact
It was based on interviews with waste pickers, scrap dealers, brokers and contractors in different governorates of the Kingdom, as well as stakeholders from relevant ministries and municipalities.

It also illustrated the economic and environmental contribution of waste pickers in Jordan, especially as they have a major role in collecting and sorting recyclable materials from waste and providing low-cost materials that are used in local industries, as well as their important role in protecting the environment.

According to the study, Amman sat atop Jordanian governorates in informal waste pickers, with more than 3,000 pickers involved in this sector, followed by Irbid and Zarqa, with some 1,500–2,000 pickers each.

The study also revealed that 50 percent of the pickers entered the sector before the age of 20, and 83 percent of them worked for more than five years in the sector.

About 50 percent of the pickers involved are aged 30 to 44, according to the study, and that pickers it interviewed work six days a week, starting between 6 and 8 am, with about 10 percent starting before 6 am.

The Greater Amman Municipality recently announced the establishment of a solid waste management company, with the aim of creating an umbrella organization to direct the work of waste pickers, to train and qualify them, in cooperation with international bodies, and in partnership with the private sector.
Sometimes we are exposed to some risks while searching containers, such as an insect sting, and wounds
Omar Shushan, president of the Jordanian Federation of Environmental Associations, said waste pickers are a “widespread phenomenon, but it is not regulated.”

“The motive is economic, not environmental, and when we say that this phenomenon is unregulated, this means that it may have a negative  environmental impact,” he told Jordan News.

Shushan explained that collecting waste in some areas where there are water springs or some leafy crops or near residential neighborhoods may affect people’s health.

Abu Faisal, who has worked in collecting scrap since 2007, told Jordan News that he chose this job due to his difficult economic situation and his retirement salary, which was barely sufficient to pay for his children’s education.

“Sometimes we are exposed to some risks while searching containers, such as an insect sting, and wounds,” the man said in a frail voice. “We also suffer from unpleasant odors, especially in the summer, and in winter we also suffer, as waste mixes with rainwater and it becomes difficult for us to separate the waste.”

He pointed out that some of  the waste pickers are university graduates who could not find jobs and resorted to waste picking to provide for their families.

Muhammad Al-Helou from the National Center for Human Rights told Jordan News that waste pickers could encounter dangers because of the absence of the conditions of occupational health and safety in the work environment.

He said there are some people who consider waste picking a suitable job because it pays well, as some may earn JD1,000 per month.

Ahmed Obeidat, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment, said that waste pickers, whether male or female, want additional income, and there may be a national goal to recycle waste.

Therefore, the Ministry of Environment is keen to have an organized role for this category, in cooperation with the Greater Amman Municipality, the Recycling Project in Jordan, under USAID’s support.
We are a vulnerable group with difficult living conditions,
He said several training courses have been held to bolster education. He said at least 16 training courses, with 400 trainees, have been held so far.

Obeidat stressed that the goal is to reach 1,800 trainees, educating them on the positive elements behind recycling, and how to deal with waste to avoid risks when sorting it.

He stressed that it is the role of the Ministry of Environment, in cooperation with the concerned authorities, to seek a legislative system to organize this category and to find a mechanism to deal with workers as official waste pickers.

Head of the Workers’ House Hamada Abu Nijmeh told Jordan News that he and peers “fear most that the procedures they are talking about would turn into complex bureaucratic practices.”

“We are a vulnerable group with difficult living conditions,” he said, pointing to challenges which he already faces, including the potential of low and irregular income, lack of social security and health insurance.

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