New Solid Waste Recovery and Recycling Contract Improves Livelihood of Waste Pickers in Jordanian landfills

Jordan generates 2.2 million tons of solid municipal waste per year, growing annually by 5% of which only 7% is recycled or salvaged mainly by the informal sector. According to the National Solid Waste strategy, formalizing the informal waste recycling and materials recovery sector has become an economic opportunity to sustain landfill infrastructure, improve livelihood of many poor marginalized Jordanians and offer decent jobs for Syrian refugees and host communities.


“I’m not happy with my employer’s treatment, work environment and wage. I feel rejected at work and by my family and friends”

About 6000-7000 people (Jordanian and Syrians) are involved in informal recycling and material recovery value chain in Jordan risking viral infections and injuries and the social stigma that comes with the job. They work in the collection of recyclable materials from landfills or by crisscrossing the streets of major cities of the country (Amman, Zarqa, Irbid, Sahab) and informal material recovery and recycling workshops from smelters to recycling workshops.


Waste pickers agree to work under harsh conditions where safety and health are compromised, struggling to earn their daily bread on a quantity rendered basis instead of hourly or monthly. “It’s not a lot but I make enough to manage on,” says Nawras Sahasil, a 21-year-old Syrian refugee who supports his wife and two children with 250 dinars a month he earns from the landfill in Irbid.


“I’m not happy with my employer’s treatment, work environment and wage. I feel rejected at work and by my family and friends” says Samer, 15 years old Jordanian, who was forced to drop out from school. Samer goes to the landfill walking, works for long hours without a break and gives his income of 90-120 dinars to his father. As a result of his exposure to hazardous waste at the landfill since the age of 2, Samer has developed Syringoma (eye sweat glands) and suffers from issues in his vision.


The old contract with individual waste pickers doesn’t cover health risks and injury. It doesn’t protect the workers against employee violations and abuse not to mention the lack of legal and human payment regulations.


UNDP Jordan in partnership with Ministry of Municipal Affairs (MOMA) and the Canadian international development program, Global Affairs Canada, have successfully launched a new Waste Materials Recovery and Recycling standardized contract that ensures monitoring and evaluation of contractors and private sector investors working in material recovery and recycling at Jordanian landfills a service that was dominated by informal individual free-lance contractors and foremen who employ waste pickers without a license and provide zero occupational health and safety equipment.


The new standardized contract encourages informal free-lance contractors to legalize and improve working conditions of waste pickers at 18 landfills and disposal sites, including those in El-Akaider (Irbid), Husainiat, Madaba, Al Salt and Karak. It forces specialized private sector contractors to develop recycling and materials recover partnerships with the Joint Services Councils of MOMA, while encourages others to establish small and medium sized companies specialized in solid waste recycling with proper material recover facilities at the Jordanian landfills by allowing them to benefit from economies of scale and longer term concession contracts.


A special workshop was conducted by UNDP to launch the new contract in partnerships with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, Ministry of Labor, International Labor Organization and Joint Services Councils nationally of which experts welcomed the new contract saying it allows for better monitoring and regulation of the sector by the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Social Affairs.


“This is a first step; however, we have a long way to formalize the sector”, said Eng. Hussein Muhaidat, Head of the Irbid Municipal Committee, “this is a new start for contracting out the services of waste separation and recovery contractors at the landfills. We need to take into consideration the waste pickers’ labor rights and improve their working conditions while encouraging the informal sector to formalize, grow and expand to retain them and encourage public-private partnerships and investment as part of the national waste management strategy”.


The new standardized contract is part of UNDP’s project “Improving Solid Waste Management and Income Creation in Host Communities - Rehabilitation of Al Ekaider Landfill” which is funded by the government of Canada, and in collaboration with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.

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