Framework

Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

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.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Micah Albert

"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.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Micah Albert

Tiger is Dandora's gatekeeper. City trucks pay his cartel to enter the site.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Micah Albert

Most trash pickers eat what they can find. Others sort through the refuse and place into large sacks whatever can be sold for recycling.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Micah Albert

Men climb on seemingly every possible inch of a food truck while others wait their turn or for friends to toss them a morsel.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Micah Albert

At the back of the dump truck, men pick up scraps of half-eaten and completely spoiled food waste.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Micah Albert

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.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Micah Albert

Rahab Rujuru, 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.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Micah Albert

As the sun rises on the dump, slum dwellers and scavengers compete for space.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Micah Albert

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.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Micah Albert

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.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Micah Albert

Human scavengers compete with winged counterparts.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Micah Albert

A framed photo is among the debris from the dumpsite.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Micah Albert

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.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Micah Albert

A man pauses atop the heap as others continue to toil.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Micah Albert

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.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Micah Albert

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.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Micah Albert

Buyers in the slum wait for pickers to deliver bags of plastic bottles for recycling.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Micah Albert

To get from the dumpsite to the neighboring slums, pickers must cross the tar-black Nairobi River.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Micah Albert

Children will be children, even in a slum next to a horribly polluted river.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Micah Albert

Before dawn, a lone picker begins another day. In the distance is the slum of Korogocho.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Micah Albert

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Kenya’s Dandora Municipal Dump Site

By Micah Albert

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

Micah Albert is a freelance photojournalist represented by Redux Pictures. This story was reported with a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and was originally produced for Foreign Policy magazine.

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