In Nahr El Bared camp, a community-based recycling project is better for the environment and for scavengers like Ayman.
Ayman’s typical day starts at 6 A.M. With his wagon in hand, he heads to the waste dumping sites of Nahr El Bared Palestinian refugee camp to search for recyclables. He can count on filling his wagon with recyclables by early afternoon. He’ll stop for a quick lunch with his wife and children, and then head out for a second round. By sunset, his day is done, and he’ll have found a treasure trove of recyclable trash.
“I look for plastics, aluminum, iron, and tin,” said Ayman. “Then I sell them to a nearby factory that processes and reuses these recyclables. I can sell a whole wagon’s worth of recyclables for an average price of $16, but I pay the truck $6 to take them to the factory.”
Ayman has been a scavenger from the young age of 11. After fourth grade, he dropped out of school and spent most of his time by the sea. “They call me ‘son of the sea,’ since I am always fishing or looking for trash on the beach to make ends meet,” he said.
They call me 'son of the sea' since I am always fishing or looking for trash on the beach to make ends meet.
A few months ago, Ayman heard about Anera’s community-based solid waste management program. The program includes a recycling campaign that involves 3,600 households in the refugee camp. When Ayman joined, he left behind long hours of scavenging in unsanitary and hazardous places for an opportunity to make more money and spread the word.
“It is not taboo to work in scavenging, and I am very proud of what I do,” said Ayman, whose father was a sanitation worker in the camp. “I am doing this for my own good and for the good of the environment.”
The program aims to promote a culture of cleanliness, environmental consciousness and social responsibility. It also creates a viable and cost-effective environmental solution that communities can adopt and implement themselves.
Each of the participating households in Nahr El Bared receive two sorting bins: one for recyclables (such as plastic, tin, aluminum, and metal) and one for other household wastes. Then scavengers make the neighborhood rounds at scheduled times, moving from street to street in search of recyclables.
“I was provided with a horn that use each time I arrive in the neighborhood,” said Ayman. “Now women and children are familiar with my collection schedule, and they come to me with their recyclables before I even blow the horn.”
In partnership with UNICEF and with funds from the Canadian government, the solid waste management program has been implemented in two Palestinian refugee camps: Nahr El Bared and Rashidiyyeh, in the north and south of Lebanon, respectively. It has engaged a total of 6,000 households and has already improved the livelihoods of local scavengers. Anera is working in capacity-building for scavengers by offering specialized training on safe waste handling. Scavengers will also be equipped with necessary tools and their routines will be organized among different neighborhoods.
“I’ve been assigned to collect recyclables from three neighborhoods: Saa’saa, Damoun, and Jahula,” noted Ayman. “It’s been easier since the campaign started. Now I fill up my wagon three times a day.”