Trash pickers often represent the lowest economic class and most marginalized population in society. A man from the neighboring slum of Korogocho hefts his last bag of trash for the day in hopes of selling the mostly rubber scraps for 50 cents. Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.
"Tiger" directs an incoming city dump truck to an acceptable location. A lot of shouting comes from the pickers, asking Tiger to direct the truck to a spot that does not spill onto an area they have yet to sort through. Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.
Tiger is Dandora's gatekeeper. City trucks pay his cartel to enter the site. Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.
Most trash pickers eat what they can find. Others sort through the refuse and place into large sacks whatever can be sold for recycling. Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.
Men climb on seemingly every possible inch of a food truck while others wait their turn or for friends to toss them a morsel. Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.
At the back of the dump truck, men pick up scraps of half-eaten and completely spoiled food waste. Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.
Rahab Rujuru looks for anything of value. "Working here is how I am able to feed my children," she said. "Of course it is not a usual job. Dodging pigs, used condoms, eating what I find. No it's not good for me. But it is a job and I have to persevere." Asthma makes life even harder for Rujuru. Toxic smoke from small fires of burning waste spreads to every corner of Dandora. As a mother, though, she says what bothers her most is the adult behavior that her children are forced to witness. Except for her 4-year-old, everyone in her family scavenges Dandora to earn money for school fees, books and uniforms. Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.
Rahab Rajuru, 42, is a mother of six, ages 4 to 17. She moved to a small home bordering Dandora after the country's 2007 postelection violence forced her and her family from their farm in Eldoret, a town near the western border. Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.
As the sun rises on the dump, slum dwellers and scavengers compete for space. Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.
On the edges of the site, some pickers prefer to work alone, looking for metal scraps. The metal usually reveals itself easier in areas that have caught fire. These pickers endure the harshest breathing conditions with a potential larger payout for their efforts. Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.
A picker uses a bent piece of rebar with a makeshift handle to hack through the waste. Some of the scavengers spend all day up to their knees looking for food or items of value. Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.
Human scavengers compete with winged counterparts. Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.
A framed photo is among the debris from the dumpsite. Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.
Pausing in the rain, a woman says she wishes she had more time to look at books. She even likes the industrial parts catalogs. "It gives me something else to do in the day besides picking" trash, she says. Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.
A man pauses atop the heap as others continue to toil. Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.
At roughly the same time every day, the unfinished salads, sandwiches, bread, yogurt cups and waste from every plane that touches down in Nairobi are transported to the Dandora site. Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.
Trash pickers pay the equivalent of 12 cents a game to use a pool table during breaks. Tiger, the owner of the table, said he grew up eating the leftover food of airline passengers. Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.
Buyers in the slum wait for pickers to deliver bags of plastic bottles for recycling. Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.
To get from the dumpsite to the neighboring slums, pickers must cross the tar-black Nairobi River. Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.
Children will be children, even in a slum next to a horribly polluted river. Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.
Before dawn, a lone picker begins another day. In the distance is the slum of Korogocho. Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.

Kenya’s Dandora Municipal Dump Site is the only dumping location for waste in Nairobi, East Africa’s most populous city, and serves as a provocative starting point for understanding the growing health, poverty and sanitation problems facing the rapidly expanding capital and region.

Located about 2.5 miles from the central business district, the 30-acre Dandora site literally spills into the households of nearly 1 million people living in nearby slums.

Through a narrative of survival amid tragic health and environmental consequences, these photos explore a marginalized population long overshadowed by an industrializing city’s expansion

Behind the statistics of children with respiratory ailments, toxic blood lead levels, skin disorders and fatal diseases directly attributed to the waste are stories of communities that have grown to depend on the dump, from street children who live off the money they make selling food and other items they find in its piles to residents who are paid pennies a day by private cartels to sort and recycle the waste.

The country’s leadership has long shown alarming indifference to Dandora, ignoring environmental laws, U.N.-commissioned health studies and calls for closure from human rights groups. A contested process to decommission the site was canceled in February.


Nairobi’s Dandora Municipal Dump Site has been officially "full" for years and is implicated in a host of diseases--yet provides employment to scavengers. Views from the dump and from those nearby.


February 15, 2013 /
Meghan Dhaliwal
Photojournalist Micah Albert wins first place in the contemporary issues category in the 56th World Press Photo Contest for his work covering the Dandora dump in Kenya.
January 31, 2013 /
Micah Albert
Insight: News Network interviews photojournalist Micah Albert about his award-winning Pulitzer Center project "Buried in Dandora" and his career as a photojournalist.