A Dirty Job: Iraqi Kurdish Poor Turn To Scavenging At Local Dumps
Dozens of locals make a living scavenging the huge rubbish dump on the outskirts of one of Iraq’s most cosmopolitan cities. Their job entails dirt, danger and disease. But, as they say, they have no other choice.
Every day on the outskirts of the northern Iraqi city of Sulaymaniyah, around 50 locals come together to comb through piles of municipal waste. Dressed in dirty clothes, wearing masks over their faces, the group searches for anything they can recycle and sell – in particular they’re looking for copper remnants, aluminium or plastics.
It takes bit of effort to talk to these waste pickers. They are afraid if they talk about what they do, then they may be prevented from doing it – every now and then the authorities in the semi-autonomous northern region of Iraqi Kurdistan try to stop this business. Additionally a lot of locals look down on this kind of work, considering it dirty and unhealthy.
And recently the economic crisis in Iraqi Kurdistan has meant that even more locals are being driven by money woes to take up scavenging at the dump.
However after some persuasion, one of the men – Ardalan Yusuf, a 24-year-old father of four, agreed to talk about how he makes his living. Yusuf explains that he arrives at the rubbish dump, which is about 50 kilometres square, early every morning and stays here until around 4pm. He sells on the plastic that he is able to collect to small plastic recycling plants and estimates that he makes about IQD10,000 (around US$8) per day.