A Gazan woman collects waste in a landfill in Rafah area for sale
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons (Afaq magazine):
Dozens of citizens, including children, are scattered around the solid waste collection station in the "Bedouin village” in the far north of the Gaza Strip, digging in the waste with their hands in search of plastic, metal, and other materials, may it help them secure a living.
Among the piles that extended for tens of meters, Ahmed - who preferred not to mention his last name - continues to search for everything he can benefit from by selling it in the scrap market.
With strong eyes just like the eyes of a falcon, he was checking the piles of garbage thrown by the cleaners at the landfill to pick it up before others come. He usually started his work in the early hours of the morning by scavenging the garbage in front of the houses and then comes to the landfill station.
The young man in his twenties adds: "This garbage is our only source of living. We work non-stop for 24/7 in search of anything that can be sold, and if we are absent for an hour, we may lose many of the materials we collect, such as plastic, iron materials, even paper, cardboard and some "antique" pieces abandoned by their owners.
Environmentalists agree that the scavengers is a worrying phenomenon since they are working in one of the most dangerous places.
A number of specialists expressed their opinion in a poll conducted by "Afaq Environmental Magazine" that the problem of scavengers requires the intervention of all parties of society due to the situation in Gaza, and that those parties should work to develop a vision to accommodate these scavengers through donors to support waste recycling projects, but before it reaches the landfills.
They stressed on the need to prevent them from entering the landfills, especially after the death of the boy, Osama Sarsak, inside the main landfill in the Gaza Strip. While the workers there did not notice it.
They expressed their concern about the complex problems that digging in waste poses especially since they deal with all kinds of solid, toxic, chemical and physical materials, and therefore are vulnerable to microbes, germs and heavy elements.
Those concerned about the issue believe that the government, municipalities and relevant international institutions must work on implementing a strategic project that contributes to solving the problem of solid waste that is worsening in the Gaza Strip and posing a threat to the life of Palestinians. It was recommended that like several countries, there should be projects established to generate energy from waste.
1800 tons per day
M. Abd al-Rahim Abu al-Qambuz, Executive Director of the Joint Services Council for Solid Waste Management in the governorates of Gaza and the North says: "The Gaza Strip, whose inhabitants are about 2 million and 200 thousand citizens, generates about 1800 tons of solid waste daily”
Regarding the components of this waste, he stated: “When analyzing the solid waste accumulated in landfills, we find that it contains 58% organic matter, 15% plastic, 14% paper and cardboard, 1.5% iron, 0.5% glass, and other components, such as sand, building waste and agricultural waste, and others.
Waste accumulates inside the main landfills in the north, center and south of Gaza Strip and contains huge quantities.
Abu al-Qumboz indicates that Juhr al-Dik landfill contains accumulated solid waste amounting to about 4 million tons since 1986 to date, and it is located on an area of 220 dunams, in addition to the accumulation of solid waste in three slums in the north , that are Jabalia landfill, located to the east of the sewage treatment plant, in which 700,000 tons of solid waste accumulate and built on an area of more than 80 dunums, and Beit Lahiya landfill west of Al Nada Towers, which includes more than 350 thousand tons and has an area of more than 30 dunums, and a third landfill is located near the separation wall in Beit Hanoun, it contains more than 100,000 tons of solid waste.
The Gaza Strip includes 42 slums spread throughout the governorates, with the amount of solid waste ranging between 3 and 5 tons.
In addition to the Juhr al-Deek dumpsite there is the "Wadi al-Salqa" landfill, located in the east of Deir al-Balah city in the central Gaza Strip, and the "Sofa al-Fakhari" landfill in the city of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, dozens of scavengers work in these dumps, which leads to many obstructions of work.
Regarding the danger of this waste remaining for years in the same place without sorting and recycling, he explains: "The Juhr Al-Deek landfill is engineeringly monitored and sanitary process is used in the landfill, but what worries us is the absence of the process of sorting and recycling these large quantities of solid waste, with the exception of the small attempts of the scavengers who are spreading in places of waste collection for recycling and sorting.
He explained that they primarily collect plastic, sell it and then recycle it, while iron is collected and pressed, and then sold to Egypt or Israel, and small amounts of paper are collected and used in the production of egg cartons.
The Economic Situation is the cause
In response to the spread of scavengers among containers in the streets, random gatherings, and main dumps, Abu al Qumboz explained that their presence is due to the deteriorating economic situation in Gaza, which produced a large number of scavengers, whether they scavenge garbage in cities or in the central landfill.
He indicated that their presence caused problems for the management of the landfill, because they hindered work and caused the ignition of the landfills, pointing to several attempts by the municipality and the Joint Services Council for Solid Waste Management, to prevent the arrival of the scavengers, but the difficult economic situation prevented this, and the matter was difficult, especially since their numbers are large estimated at 150 people.
On how solid waste is collected, the Executive Director of the Joint Services Council in the governorates of Gaza and the North says: “Every day, the collection process takes place in two phases. The transportation process from the container to the central landfill in Juhr al-Dik, which receives about 1,200 tons daily, includes the governorates of Gaza and the North, the camps supervised by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Refugees (UNRWA) and some municipalities of the central governorate.
Abu al-Qumboz stated that the Juhr al-Deek landfill is under control within an integrated system, and is systematically managed , but its main problem is that it is an old landfill that was established in 1986 and is about to fail as a landfill. He stressed that the Council and the Gaza Municipality are seeking to obtain funding for a strategic project with the aim of establishing a new landfill or expanding the existing landfill.
On the other hand, M. Abu Al-Qumboz called for making connections and launching initiatives with the aim of enhancing the household waste sorting process as part of efforts to enhance community participation and preserve the environment and public health, saying: “The “Sallet Baladna” initiative for household waste sorting comes within these efforts to preserve the environment.”
The idea of the initiative is based on the cooperation and community participation in the process of sorting household waste, to recycle it and benefit from it. The initiative’s crew worked on collecting household waste from 10 residential towers in the Tel al-Hawa area, south of Gaza City, and sorting it in cooperation with the residents, to take advantage of it, recycle it, and use it in various industries. It was based on the separation of plastic material in the first place.
The council also implemented a successful initiative, with the support and funding of the Japan International Cooperation Agency "JICA" , which is units for sorting and processing the organic matter, targeting 170 beneficiaries who meet the conditions, and have the desire and own a home garden.
Translated by: Rasha Abu Dayyeh