Valuable waste: recycling in a Jordanian refugee camp

A recycling centre in a refugee camp provides meaningful employment for residents. And makes the camp cleaner.

Almost 80,000 Syrian refugees live in Zaatari Camp in the north of Jordan, and more than 30 tonnes of waste is produced there every day. Setting up a functioning waste management system was no easy task. The idea of collecting waste was not very popular at the beginning, and lots of residents were worried that a disposal site would spread disease and attract dogs. For many families, separating waste was a new concept that presented a bit of a challenge.

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH has been supporting waste management in Zaatari Camp since 2016. It is working on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), and its activities are cofinanced by the EU. A pilot project introduced residents to the principle of sorting waste. Each family received two refuse bins – one for recyclables like cardboard, plastics and metal, and the other for everything else. The sorted waste is collected and taken to the recycling centre. It took a year to roll out the new waste management system across the camp, but now almost all residents sort their rubbish. As a result, the amount of residual waste generated every day has decreased by more than four tonnes. This has relieved pressure in the camp, improved hygiene and stopped diseases from spreading.

To ensure that the new system is (financially) sustainable, the recyclables need to be sold. This posed a major challenge for the project partners, Oxfam and GIZ, but they have now found buyers who are able to retrieve and process the recyclable material. The recycling centre reduces the amount of residual waste by 1.5 tonnes per day, sifting out the recyclables to be sold. 77 camp residents are involved in operating the waste disposal system every day. They are employed on a temporary basis and receive cash directly for the work they do. The income generated through selling the recyclables is used to keep the centre running.

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