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The Recyclers of Port-au-Prince

By New York-based photographer Giles Clarke

In a 200-acre dump, three miles north of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, men, women and children recycle plastics, clothing and other items. It is here that the majority of the rubble from the January 2010 earthquake was dumped. The vast landfill is a health risk for residents: workers fall ill with respiratory issues from the burning garbage; unregulated medical waste is dumped there from city hospitals and clinics; even its location above an aquifer is a hazard. Over a thousand recyclers live and work in this toxic, burning dump with many of the scavengers under the age of 18. On a good day they might earn $15 for recycled aluminium or plastics which they bag then sell to intermediary dealers at the site. The risks of disease, coupled with the danger involved in walking over burning methane pockets on the smouldering trash fields, are outweighed by the lure of cash at the end of each day.

Three recyclers stand for a portrait amid the vast wasteland of trash. There are around 2,000 people who make up this dump community. They live without medical help or clean water to wash in. There are mountains of dioxin-smoking waste that grow daily only yards from where families live in rough tin shacks.

A privately owned dump truck is rushed upon by recyclers who fight for position when the garbage is dumped. A few companies have sprung up recently to buy the recycled plastic for 10 to 14 cents per pound.

In a 200-acre-plus dump, hundreds of men, women and children scavenge day and night through the burning wasteland. 5,000 tonnes of waste is created each day.


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