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

Bleak China Economic Outlook Rattles Markets

Several key European stock indexes were down up to three percent, while US market indexes were off around 2.5 percent in afternoon trading More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs