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

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs