For illegal African women, garbage in dumpsters means money
Piles of household waste in dumpsters, which include cartons, tin cans and metal and glass items, are a lucrative source of income for many illegal African women. They collect the waste materials to sell in the scrap market for a profit despite the efforts of the Jeddah Municipality to stop the trade which is spoiling the look of the city.
Garbage-picking is a daily practice where illegal African women sift through the waste in garbage dumps picking up recyclable materials such as metal, glass and paper to sell later. However, the phenomenon has given rise to environmental problems especially in Jeddah’s southern districts where the waste is often stored in vacant lands or in nooks and crannies of crumbling walls.
Some women have been at the job for 30 years despite the Jeddah Municipality’s efforts to put an end to the practice. In fact, the number of illegal women involved in garbage picking has increased.
Abdulaziz Al-Ghamdi, Jeddah Municipality spokesman, told Arab News in an interview earlier: “Garbage dumpsters will soon disappear from Jeddah’s streets.”
A project estimated to be worth more than SR80 million seeks to drastically reduce the number of containers and garbage compactors on Jeddah’s major streets and small alleyways.
“The new decision will be implemented by next year pending extensive study and this will hopefully eradicate the phenomenon of garbage-picking. The move will also enhance the garbage collection system from the city to the outskirts,” Al-Ghamdi said.
Most of the African garbage collectors come to the Kingdom for Umrah or Haj and then stay back following the expiration of their visas. They prefer the southern districts of Jeddah. Owing to lack of jobs in the Kingdom for unskilled labor, the women take to garbage-picking to meet the daily cost of living which some of them say, is better than begging.
They work everyday from six in the morning to two in the afternoon roaming the roads and streets looking for recyclable garbage in the numerous dumpsters in the city. They store their haul in certain areas in south Jeddah to be sold to scrap stores later.
“The problem is that the Jeddah Municipality has not paid attention to the cleanliness and development of south Jeddah giving rise to all the negative activities in that area,” Adel Hassen, a south Jeddah resident, told Arab News.
Social activist Ali Awad said: “The southern districts of Jeddah like Al-Nuslah, AL-Hindawyah, Al-Sabeel among others harbor a lot of illegal expats, especially African nationals with no residency permits.
“There are other districts where the African expats are wanted by security authorities especially in areas bordering the industrial city of Jeddah. Many of them prefer to work as beggars or garbage-pickers creating security and environmental problems.
“There need to be concerted efforts to clean the city and organize the southern Jeddah districts.”
Meanwhile, these districts continue to witness garbage sprawled on the streets and African women and their children are seen elsewhere rummaging dumpsters for things that can be retrieved and sold.
Several residents of the southern districts have demanded the Jeddah Municipality take action against the garbage contracting firms which are not paying enough attention to cleaning the streets.
Some months back, Jeddah police issued a statement saying patrols continue to arrest illegal expats in south Jeddah during labor inspection campaigns which began in November last year.