How much are garbage collectors paid

For the residents of Dar Es Salaam it goes without saying to throw plastic bottles directly on the street. Rubbish bins are a rarity outside of the city center; most households have no connection to the public waste disposal network. The waste management in Dar Es Salaam has a different basis: It will only be a short time before one of the many garbage collectors pulls by with a huge jute sack. He will pick up every plastic bottle, put it in his sack and take it to one of the many middlemen to sell his plastic bottles for about 150 shillingi, about eight euro cents per kilo. These middlemen usually accept all kinds of rubbish, including plastic bottles. These are sold to a Chinese company that shreds the plastic bottles into pellets and ships them to China. There they are used to make new plastic products.

For Dar es Salaam it is ultimately not bad that some of the plastic is removed - it saves the city from having to dispose of it. Other types of plastic are bought from a Tanzanian company. They use it to make flip-flops, for example, which the upper class only uses for showering, but which the majority of passers-by wear on the streets.

There are also buyers for metal and cardboard, and so the middleman collects until he has enough to contact one of the companies that sends a car over and pays around 250 shillingi (= 13 cents) per kilo in the case of plastic bottles.

One of those garbage collectorswho roam the hot streets of Dar es Salaam every day is Fidel. He comes from the Bukoba region in the north. His home is a two-day trip from Dar es Salaam. Like so many young people in Tanzania, Fidel came to the city because he hoped for a better life. But without start-up capital or help from relatives or acquaintances, it was impossible to gain a foothold in Dar es Salaam. Like many others, he had to get used to life on the street. In order to avoid problems, he first had to prove himself to the others. It is not uncommon for something to be stolen from him while he is sleeping. Nevertheless, there is a certain cohesion on the street. He would not starve to death: When it comes to daily food, the garbage collectors usually share with each other.

Fidel has a girlfriend. She also comes from Bukoba. It is even more difficult for women to assert themselves, and many, including Fidel's girlfriend, have no choice but to prostitute themselves. In order to endure this everyday life on the street, many of the homeless, including the homeless garbage collectors, resort to alcohol, marijuana or even heroin.

Everyday things become for Fidel to a challenge: Buying a cell phone needs to be carefully considered. Buying a cheap model from the street under the hand, as it is taken for granted for all "normal" citizens of Dar Es Salaam, is dangerous for him. He is regularly checked by the police. She is happy when she finds a cell phone with someone like Fidel without a receipt. Immediately a theft could be attached to him. This means that he has to hand over his cell phone, pay a bribe and, in the worst case, spend time in jail. Buying an expensive cell phone in a store, on the other hand, is a risky investment because if, like Fidel, you didn't have space to store your things, the cell phone would soon be stolen.

In contrast to Fidel himself, the city administration is well aware of the high economic and ecological value that the garbage collectors have for the city. These illegal workers are therefore not only tolerated, but even encouraged, as officials of the city administration confirmed.

Garbage has been a problem in Dar Es Salaam since colonial times. Germans as well as British colonial officials cultivated a racist urban policy: a well-organized waste disposal system only existed in the areas of the white population. A lack of infrastructure, poor roads, narrow construction, frequent water shortages and, above all, a lack of investment made it difficult to keep the neighborhoods of the African population clean. To this day, it is the same neighborhoods as then that are disadvantaged or preferred. It is the rich who are allowed to enjoy officially run, state waste disposal. But with independence, the disposal problem did not get any smaller. After a long period of African socialism and economic independence under the first Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, the complete opening to the international market in the 1980s brought a lot of new, packaged consumer goods into the country - and more rubbish.

Early 1990s the government of Tanzania organized an Emergency Clean Up, in which the entire population of Dar Es Salam took part in an action to clean up the city. Shortly afterwards, the partial privatization of waste disposal followed, and for the first time in the history of the city, the residents now had to pay a fee to the disposal company. All of this was initiated by the UN, which Dar es Salaam selected as the first city to test the Sustainable City Program. The partial privatization of waste disposal required therein was briefly successful. At first, many companies actually sprang up and many parts of the city were better served. However, the majority of the population was not prepared to pay a fee for the disposal. Electricity and water, for which one has to pay, were and are more important to the Tanzanians.

Today the responsibility lies more and more with the overburdened city administration and its branches in the districts, which are trying to get the garbage problem under control. Donations and know-how from abroad are always gladly accepted, but often do not seem to be expedient, as the local conditions are often neglected. Much is expected from the founding of grassroots organizations to take care of waste disposal in the neighborhood. But this work is not paid and therefore not done consistently. There are also some private companies.

One of the private waste companies SINCON is responsible for the disposal of waste in the inner city. SINCON can only survive because the company also pumps out latrines and is paid for it on the spot. In the case of garbage collection, the law requires that the fees be collected at the end of the month. If someone doesn't pay, they'll be sued. However, it takes years before a court decision is made.

SINCON owns modern garbage trucks, but they are not used because they use too much gasoline. Protective clothing for the day laborers is available. Like the trucks, this was donated by a German organization. However, the equipment is not distributed to the workers. The workers would sell them on immediately.

The official Dar Es Salaams landfill has been located a little outside the city since 2009, which means that the longer transport routes make it considerably more expensive for private waste disposal companies and locally organized waste disposal groups.

But a large percentage of the waste in Dar Es Salaam does not even reach the landfill, but is secretly thrown on illegal small landfills or burned directly in the inhabited area. "Recyclable materials" such as plastic, glass, metals or paper are increasingly being collected separately and given to a garbage collector like Fidel.

Johanna Emig studied African Studies at the University of Vienna. She will soon finish her studies in environmental and bioresource management. At the end of 2009, she stayed in Tanzania for several months to research her diploma thesis.