Life at a landfill: Waste pickers try to dig their future out of poverty in Da Nang

Thanh Nien News

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A landfill site on the outskirts of Da Nang has drawn more scrap collectors these last days of the lunar year.
As many people throw out a lot of their old stuff, these pickers just hope they will find a few things here that they can exchange for a couple extra bucks to start the new year with. 
Otherwise, they will search for recyclable items and food leftovers, just like any other day. 

Khanh Son dumpsite receives nearly 1.5 tons of garbage around this time of the year, twice the amount on normal days.

The pickers come to the site from around 4 a.m. and only leave after the last garbage truck at night. They have ignored the safety warning that they should stay at least two meters from the truck. A collector said they earned VND150,000 to 200,000 (US$7-10) a day.

A collector tears apart plastic bags to pick up anything that can be recycled.

A collector shoulders a full basket and a bag. Many of the items are plastic bottles and beer cans from year-end parties.

The site managers say that in principal, no scrap collectors are allowed in the site, but they just let them in to make a living. The collectors, most of them women, only need to fill in a form to let the managers know who they are.

The collectors say they often return personal papers mixed in the trash. Sometimes they find guns and give them to police.

This woman says she knows that the job comes with a lot of health risks, but she has to take it because “life is too hard.” She does not want to be named, fearing that her children's friends will know and make fun of them. 

A collector sells recyclable trash to a dealer (right).

An old man checks a bag of dumped vegetables at the site which he says he will feed his 50 pigs. Living in a country with almost no safety net for old people, he has been taking dumped food from the site for four years to feed the pigs in order to save some money.

A collector eats corn for lunch. She says she’s going to work until the Lunar New Year's Eve (February 18) to have money to buy some banh chung, the Vietnamese traditional rice cakes.


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