1. ‘Hell on earth’: the great urban scandal of family life lived on a rubbish dump. Countless communities around the world scavenge on open dumps – with terrible health consequences.
2. Night and day, thousands of waste pickers – people who gather, sort, reuse and sell the materials others throw away.
3. Families fashioned homes from rubbish, on top of rubbish. They itate rubbish, fight over it – and even died over it. There were numerous other hazards. Putrid smoke seeped from the pile and residents had to step over broken glass and medical waste – one woman even said she stumbled on aborted foetuses among the rubbish.
4. Researchers who studied dumps found dangerous levels of cancer-causing dioxins in the soil and heavy metals in the metabolisms of children working there.
5. People reported the afflictions common to dump life worldwide: diarrhoea, headaches, chest and stomach pain, typhoid and irritation of the skin, nose and eyes.
6. Every day, they search the area for treasure — a tiny scrap of metal, a bit of plastic, maybe a bone. They use large hooks to sort through the garbage, which sometimes reaches two or three stories high. They work in teams, and more than often they are barefoot.
7. “They don’t look at the things they’re doing as being unsanitary or unhealthy or unsafe,” They collect plastic, metal and wires and sell it by the pound. The families make around $2 per day.
8. Their homes are constructed with recycled materials, with sometimes several families living in one shanty at a time. With no electricity, no running water — and an overabundance of trash — they are experts at repurposing.
9. Serious accidents, illnesses and even deaths are common. And outside the dump they faced stigma and discrimination within society.
10. Around the world, millions of people make a living by waste picking. Some work on the city streets, pushing their carts along the pavement, often at night when there are fewer cars on the roads. Others are drawn to open dumps, where there is an abundant, concentrated supply of sellable material.
11. The first thing that drives people to work with waste, wherever it is, is destitution – it’s poverty, another is bad governance.