03 April 2012
A woman sits on bags of waste she has salvaged, at the Dandora municipal dump, outside Nairobi, Kenya. She said that she enjoys looking at books, even industrial catalogues, as a break from picking up garbage.
The dumpsite, some 8 km from the center of the Kenyan capital, is one of the largest rubbish dumps in Africa. People living in the slum area around the site have been found to suffer from increased levels of lead in their blood, as well as above normal incidence of kidney disease and cancer. Gases rising from decomposing waste lead to high rates of respiratory disease.
Despite the health risks, between 6,000 and 10,000 people earn a living from the dumpsite, seeking food waste, scavenging goods for resale, or separating materials for recycling. Informal cartels run the recycling operation, paying pickers around €2 a day.
Opened in 1975, the dump should—under international environmental laws—have been closed after 15 years. It remains in use, despite being declared full in 2001.