Morocco trash pickers help fight global warming

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    2,000 tons of solid waste arrive each day at a landfill in Rabat.

    Rubbish collectors roam the streets day and night with their trash carts. But a project launched in 2011 has hired some of these informal trash pickers helping to turn their lives around.

    Najat Rabbahm is one of the beneficiaries of this project. ‘We are much better since we have come here. We got rid of having to work under the sun or rain, we have social security and our earnings help up to support our families,” said Najat.

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    The informal trash collectors are still looked down upon in Morocco, with some still viewing them as trash ‘thieves’. But at the Attawafoq Cooperative, they all have a fixed salary of around 230 euros per month and they take part in waste recycling too.

    The project was set up as an environmental initiative in a country where household waste causes up to 18% of emissions of greenhouse gases.
    The company that operates the landfill has invested 650,000 euros in the small cooperative and say the workers are their priority.

    “These 150 people have formed a cooperative; earn their living in an honest way. So they have regained their dignity and now they make their own business and I think they are well organized. Ultimately, we wanted to allow 150 families the chance to carry on living,” said Gerand Prenant, CEO of the Pizzorno Environment group.

    Morocco has pledged to cut down on its greenhouse gas emissions by 13 percent by 2020. This is an ambitious goal which requires support for this type of cooperative and the gradual destruction of 220 unauthorised landfills that exist in the country.

    “We have established a partnership with local authorities.” Loubna El-Abed is the head of waste recovery department of the ministry pf environment in the country. “To date, we have funded 16 of the existing 19 sorting and waste recycling centres. The program takes time. Six new sorting centres are being built, increasing to 70 centres by 2020.”

    But with the lack of legislation on recycling, it seems it’s the trash pickers who will lead the ecological transformation of Morocco, giving value back to waste.

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