Less than 5km (two miles) from central Nairobi lie the smouldering mountains of rubbish thrown away by the residents and businesses of the Kenyan capital. Dandora is one of Africa's largest dumping and scavenging grounds. Every day thousands of slum dwellers try to eke out a living. This man took nearly three hours to fill his last bag of the day—and he hopes to sell the contents, which are mostly scraps of rubber, for $0.50 (£0.30). Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.
People rummage through the filth, sorting into large sacks the materials that cannot be eaten—but can be sold for recycling. Metals, rubber, milk bags, plastics, meat bones, and electronics are some of the most sought-after recyclables. The Nairobi city council does not officially condone this informal system of recycling, which helps to manage the dump. Dandora opened in 1975, and under international environmental laws should have been closed after 15 years. The council says it now has plans to open up another site. Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.
An informal chain of about 6,000 middlemen and women has long done the dirty work for recycling companies. The self-employed pickers scavenge through the sprawling 30-acre rubbish dump from dawn until dusk. They then take their sacks to nearby weigh stations where small buyers purchase them, eventually collecting enough to sell on to the informal truck drivers, who deliver the loads to the recycling companies. Pickers say they are lucky to make $2.50 in a day. Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.
Julius Macharia, 27, who prefers to go by the nickname “Tiger”, is one of Dandora’s gatekeepers. In exchange for security, truck drivers pay his cartel to enter the site. Here, he directs a truck to an acceptable location—pickers shout at him to find a spot that does not spill onto an area they have yet to sort through. Despite being declared full by the Nairobi council in 2001, an estimated 2,000 tonnes of waste are still dumped each day. Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.
Tiger worries about what will happen to those who depend on Dandora, should the government shut down the dump or open a new one elsewhere. After 40 years, a certain rhythm of life has developed and families have grown to depend on the income and food they get from scavenging. "We are like these birds and pigs to this city,” Tiger says. “They don’t recognize us as people. They don’t care what happens to us, and if they relocate this place then we will have nothing.” Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.
Pickers say they never get used to the acrid smoke from the burning piles of waste which cover Dandora. A 2007 study by the UN's environmental agency found soil samples containing fatally high levels of lead in a community bordering the dump. It also found that 154 of the 328 children tested suffered from respiratory problems because of the site and had concentrations of lead in their blood that exceeded internationally accepted levels. Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.
At roughly the same time every day, the unfinished salads, sandwiches, bread, and other foodstuffs from flights to Nairobi's busy international airport are transported to Dandora by this green truck. The scraps hardly make it out of the truck before dozens of men fight over the haul. Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.
The strongest men and boys climb on every possible inch of the truck - while others wait their turn or for friends to toss them a morsel. Women usually avoid the frenzy, hovering in the background waiting for the crowd to thin out before picking through what remains. Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.
This boy slurps down a carton of yoghurt—it is hot, liquefied and reeking after being baked by the sun. Nevertheless, it is one of the most coveted items. Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.
A trip to the dump is part of the school day for nearly a quarter of the 850 students at St John’s Informal School, which borders Dandora. For some of them, the food waste is the only meal they will have all day - and so the school does not mete out any punishment for absenteeism. Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.
Rahab Ruguru, a 42-year-old mother of six, lives on the outskirts of Dandora. Apart from a four-year-old, Mrs Ruguru takes her whole family scavenging at weekends and after classes - to earn money for school fees, books and uniforms. No matter what regulations the bureaucrats in Nairobi may issue, she does not see a time they will stop picking through Kenya's leftovers. “If this site moves, then I will move with it - or we will not survive,” she says. Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.

One of Africa's largest dump sites, Dandora lies less than two miles from Kenya's capital Nairobi. Despite being declared full by the Nairobi council in 2001, an estimated 2,000 tons of waste are still dumped each day. These smouldering mountains of toxic waste shunned by neighboring residents are the scavenging grounds for the self-employed trash pickers who make money selling scraps of metal and rubber. Not only has Dandora become the main source of income for many, but also the cafeteria for nearly a quarter of the 850 students at a nearby school. A trip to the dump is part of the school day because, for some of them, the food waste is the only meal they will have all day.

Project

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.

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