News / Africa

    With a Little Help, South Sudan Women Turn Trash Into Money

    South Sudanese pick through a sea of trash outside Juba, looking for plastic bottles that they can exchange for money at a local NGO.
    South Sudanese pick through a sea of trash outside Juba, looking for plastic bottles that they can exchange for money at a local NGO.
    Anthony Mogga
    Esther Keji picks through a sprawling pile of trash at a dump around 20 kilometers outside Juba, on the road to Yei.

    This is how Keji makes a living. With the sun beating down on her back, she bends over and sifts through discarded rubbish -- everything from rubber tires to soda cans -- looking for plastic bottles.

    Juba has a huge problem with plastic waste. Most people in the city drink bottled water and throw the empties out because there are very few recycling facilities. Estimates put the number of plastic bottles discarded in Juba  each day at around one million.

    "This work is really hard," 32-year-old Keji says as she picks another plastic bottle out of the massive pile that covers the equivalent of five football pitches. 

    Around her, dozens of others -- men, women and children -- do the same back-breaking, dirty work.
    A South Sudanese woman sorts through plastic bottles she collected at a landfill outside Juba. Around 1 million plastic bottles are disposed of every day in the South Sudanese capital.
    A South Sudanese woman sorts through plastic bottles she collected at a landfill outside Juba. Around 1 million plastic bottles are disposed of every day in the South Sudanese capital.
    The women and children used to sell the trash they collected to traders from Uganda and Kenya, who took the rubbish back to their country for recycling.

    But for the past year, there has been another option: a local NGO, the Environmental Rehabilitation Program (ERP), pays the women by weight for plastic bottles they bring in for recycling.

    ERP then takes the bottles, cleans them, separates the caps from the bottle, shreds the plastic and, when it has accumulated 20 tons of plastic, sells it to buyers from China, Congo and Uganda, who take it to their country to turn it into items like rope or synthetic fabric.
    Olivier Snowden, an advisor at the Environment Rehabilitation Program (ERP) holds up a handful of shredded plastic made from bottles collected by local women.
    Olivier Snowden, an advisor at the Environment Rehabilitation Program (ERP) holds up a handful of shredded plastic made from bottles collected by local women.
    ERP program advisor Olivier Snowden says recycling is important not just because it gives women like Keji an income, but also because it keeps plastic out of landfills.

    "This type of plastic bottle was just invented last century, so nobody can tell how long it takes" to degrade, Snowden said.

    "Experts say that it takes maybe a thousand years... If you put a bottle in the ground today, the grandchildren of your grandchild will find it there. It will not decompose."

    ERP says it collects and recycles 50,000 plastic bottles, or around one ton of plastic, from the dump near Juba each day.

    But even if the women like Keji who pick through the trash at the dump were to collect twice or three times that amount of plastic, they would still be collecting only a fraction of the one million bottles that are said to be thrown out daily in the South Sudanese capital.

    You May Like

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: John English from: Australia
    May 17, 2014 8:27 PM
    To Olivier Snowden.
    I am curious about whether there is any possibility of utilising the plastic bottles that are collected in Juba to make some type of recycled product, "on-the-spot", rather than simply sending off the raw material to another country. Is it just a matter of having suitable machinery to do this?
    Also, I am curious to know whether there are any Tetrapak cartons used in Juba which end up in the landfill. Tetrapak is the type used for long-life milk and juice, and it has a 5% aluminium content that forms the lining of the container.
    If you have any information regarding the above, would you please contact me when you have time to spare?

    Many thanks

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.