Bounce Exclusive: Dumpsite Scavenging Is Profitable In Lagos
From afar it's just another waste site but when you move closer; you will see it's a community.
And it's growing everyday.
Olusosun Landfill is the final resting place of rubbish and waste in Lagos state.
The dumpsite, which is lies a few kilometres away from the seat of the Lagos State government in Ikeja will qualify as one of the largest in Africa.
Lagos has no organised household recycling, so this dump collects the plastic and metal discarded by residents.
Every day, 200 lorries add another 15,000 tons to the mountain.
The government’s inefficiency, however, provides a living for about 3,500 pickers.
Scavenging at Olusosun is a 24/7 exercise – and business is booming.
The pickers spend their days, often in temperatures well over 30 degrees, sifting through the mounds of filth as the trucks bring in the waste.
They are looking for items that can be re-cycled and re-sold.
The scene may be miserable but for most waste pickers it is an improvement on their former living conditions.
The scavengers wear gloves, but many sift through the rubbish with their bare hands.
Their hands are black with dirt and their heads are covered with face caps that protect them from the heat of the day.
The competition is stiff and their nostrils are immune to the stench.
They race towards a rubbish truck as it empties its trash and they have to go through the rubbish quickly before the caterpillars arrive.
The sorting business is not restricted to adults alone; children are also involved.
Although the life of a scavengers is not one to opt for, the average take home pay of some of the scavengers equals or surpasses the salaries of some skilled workers.
Waste pickers make between N5,000 and N7,000 a day selling the items they find to agents and scrap dealers.
On a daily basis, buyers besiege the dump site with trucks looking for various recyclable items such as tins, aluminum, rubber, plastics, metals and iron.
Investigation by Bounce News shows that the scavengers have formed an association called Scavengers Association of Nigeria (SAN). The executive officers of the association settles matters ranging from theft to physical confrontations.
When Bounce News visited the site on Saturday, the executives of the association were holding a meeting with all female pickers.
For most of the pickers, the dumpsite is not only a source of living, it is also their homes.
The dwellings are made from found wood and sheets of corrugated metal, with bricks and tyres placed carefully on roofs to ward off the winds.
There is neither electricity nor water, so they patronize pure water sellers
Although the mountain of garbage sustains them, it also endangers their lives. The landfill has been described as the death valley, but one of the pickers, Yerima thinks otherwise.
Yerima, who has been earning a living at Olusosun for about three years, said: "I like it here. I feel comfortable here".
"There's nobody telling me what to do here.
"When I want to work, I work. Nobody controls me."
With the money he makes, Yerima caters for his family, sends money to his relatives in Adamawa state and takes care of himself.
With no household recycling program on the horizon, there is no danger of work running out for these scavengers.