Plastic waste is a job opportunity and dangers inhabiting the camps

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Iman takes a deep breath before reaching her job, sorting plastic amid the hills surrounding the camp she lives in, on the road between Hazano and Maarat al-Akhwan towns (north of Idlib).

The place was not a landfill for plastic waste before, but it appears to be so today, after the profession of sorting and recycling plastic has become active. This is accompanied by other waste that accumulates during the sorting process. It emits an odor that Iman describes as “unpleasant.” And pedestrians can inhale it over long distances

Dozens of big trucks arrive at the place to drop their loads. Workers wear masks and gloves to protect themselves. They shout to chat with more enthusiasm than the noise of the crunches installed nearby.

Al-Khalifa camp residents are not alarmed by what is happening. Large numbers of them from different age groups gather around piles of waste to work by sorting plastic according to its color and type, then crushing it and sending it to smelting plants, ignoring the dangers and unpleasant odors resulting from this work.

Hearing the sounds of trucks, the crunches and the smell became a “happiness point” for the camp’s residents. Those we spoke with said that it was linked to their “source of livelihood” in the absence of other job opportunities that they depended on.

The workers we spoke to say that what they get for sorting the plastic helps them with the increasing financial burden. They add what they receive to the monthly basket they receive monthly from an organization that takes care of the camp's affairs to spend the days of the month, which they described as “heavy”, especially since winter is approaching.

Hamoud al-Hassan (Bachelor of Law) and his wife Fatima al-Omar (Bachelor of French) work as sorting plastics, they say they didn't get a better job opportunity.

Through their work, Al Hassan and his wife hope to secure heating for their family of six. The family lives in one tent, which Fatima divided into three sections separated from each other by a piece of cloth, one for bathing and the other with kitchen utensils and foodstuffs arranged, while family members sit and sleep in the last section, which does not exceed four square meters.

It is no coincidence that there is

plastic sorting profession

 Near this camp. But he came at the request of his manager (Thaldi Abu Ali) with the aim of securing a job opportunity for more than sixty families living in the place.

Abu Ali tells us that he found in this job an opportunity for tens of unemployed residents, as he needs in its various sections of plastic sorting, crushing (milling) and packing for a large number of workers, which drew his attention to the recruitment of the owners of this profession to invest near the camp that he manages

The working hours are divided into two shifts, the first of which begins with sunrise and ends at noon, where the lunch break begins at a time when temperatures rise, and is followed by the evening period from four to seven.

Male and female workers share what they earn after completing the work equally, according to the weight accomplished. The wages per tonne crushed are twenty-five dollars, and each worker earns an average of about two thousand Syrian pounds per day (less than one dollar).

Those we spoke with say that a month’s wages is not enough to buy fuel for heating that is sufficient for ten days, but they are committed to working according to the principle (a share is based on a jar). They prefer their “low wages” to sitting in their tents without work.

Heaps of plastic gather near the camp, spreading foul odors in the place and leaving visible waste, as garbage containers and landfills are the first source of these materials, while the other part is collected by mobile scrap dealers and

Children collecting plastic


Abu Hamdo, a “forty-year-old man who collects plastic” roams in his car between the villages of Idlib in search of pieces of plastic such as broken chairs, vegetable boxes and others. Streets and containers.

Abu Hamdo sells what he picks up from his tour to a dealer of crushed plastic, so the other collects it and sells it to plastic sorting workshops

The workers ignore the germs and dirt that these pieces carry, and some of them are satisfied with wearing gloves, but they are careful not to injure one of them for fear of “infection” as a result of contamination of these materials, according to “Hammadi,” who works in the workshop.

Plastic complexes attract flies and other insects as well as rodents and snakes, which poses a danger to the residents of the nearby camps, in addition to that, plastic waste is non-degradable material in the soil and its accumulation on arable soil loses its fertility in the long term, as a result of the accumulation of dangerous dioxin, and it also blocks The sunlight on the soil spoils it and kills all beneficial insects in it, according to agricultural specialists.

Workers in this place repeat the phrase, “You are not forced to do anything but the command,” in reference to the difficulty and dangers of this work, and the lack of wages. However, the high unemployment rate and the lack of job opportunities push them to accept any work they find without stopping at its nature and whether there is a proportion between the working hours and what they receive.

Iman bends down to continue her work of sorting the plastic while holding her breath to relieve the bad smell she inhales. The woman says that many times she stops to get cleaner air for her eagerly awaited baby.

Source: Fox Aleppo