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No off & long hours, life is miserable: waste collectors

‘The stench of garbage refuses to go from our hands and bodies despite using all kinds of soaps,’ say the garbage collectors.

KUWAIT CITY, Dec 25: Amid foul smell and piledup garbage, the street cleaners and garbage collectors have to work 12 hours a day throughout the week without a dayoff. The only day-off they get is when they become seriously sick. A day-off due to any other kind of sickness that is not categorized as serious is considered as a dayoff with deducted salary.

In fact, sickness could also be a motive to terminate their services and send them back to their countries especially if a chronic or dangerous disease finds its way into the bodies of these low-income hard-working men who try their best to maintain a smile.

However, during this interview, some of them couldn’t hold on to their smiles and decided to vent their frustrations concerning their overall situation. The companies that bring them to this country fail to honor even the simplest of human rights such as shelter and salary. On top of all that, these workers have to pay for their health insurance. Majority of them revealed that the salary they earn is very low. About KD 30, which is more than half of their salary, goes to their families back in their countries. The remaining amount of about KD 25 they spend locally.

However, when they have to pay for their health insurance, many end up taking loans from their colleagues with the hope of paying them back. According to one of the interviewee, they live in pathetic accommodations that cannot be considered as suitable for human beings to live in.

More than ten fully-grown men stay in one tiny room. Some of them prefer to clean the streets instead of being a garbage collector because those working on the streets are at least seen and many people sympathize with them and give them something small to broaden their smiles. However, no one notices those working in the garbage trucks. The stench they have to endure is unimaginable.

According to one of them, the worst moments of his work is when he finds garbage disposed outside the garbage bin, which means he has to pick it up. A garbage collector said, “Most of the time, the stench stays on our hands and even on our bodies for days. They do not go despite how strong the soap we use to clean ourselves. For example, a paper bag thrown inside the garbage container can tear and all its contents such as rotten meat, milk, rice, soup, etc can fall on us”.

Nonetheless, it is unfortunate that even the idea of quitting in order to work somewhere better is not possible for these hard workers because, “Whenever the company feels we are on the verge of resigning, they make it very difficult for us to go to another job. Worst of all, the only job we can get is handling garbage irrespective of the other skills we have”, one of them said.

Meanwhile, an environmental expert Dr. Mubarak Al-Ajmi explained that the solid wastes that come from a household in Kuwait everyday amount to about two to three kilograms. This means Kuwait produces about 10 million kilograms of household waste daily.


By Najeh Bilal Al-Seyassah Staff

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