x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Sharjah steps up fight with rubbish collectors

Scavenging is a threat to the community and residents should report anyone found collecting rubbish.

SHARJAH // Authorities are urging residents to report anyone seen collecting cartons, papers or soda bottles from rubbish bins, as part of a clampdown on illegal residents.

Waste collecting is against the law and most of those involved are living in the emirate illegally, the Sharjah Department of Residency and Foreign Affairs said.

Department figures show 129 rubbish collectors were arrested in the first quarter of this year.

Brig Gen Dr Abdullah Ali Saeed bin Sahoo, the director general of the department, said such scavenging was a threat to the community.

"We ask business owners dealing in cardboard boxes to report those people," Brig Gen bin Sahoo said. "These boxes should only be collected by the environment company licensed to operate in Sharjah, called Bee'ah."

Ahmed Ali al Ketbi, an Emirati resident of Al Majjaz, said he had seen several people rummaging through his neighbourhood bins and thought it was offensive to the country.

"It all gives a false impression that there are many poor people here struggling to live, which is not true," Mr al Ketbi said. "If you are a legal resident of this country, you must have a job and all those scavenging in dustbins must be illegals."

But one Asian worker found collecting rubbish in Al Majjaz, who asked to stay anonymous, said he had a job as a plumber and collected rubbish to supplement his income.

"I do collect these bottles whenever I have some time or when there is no work at the company," he said. "I earn about Dh600 [US$163] every month from them to complement my Dh1,500 salary."

Rajesh, who earns up to Dh800 a month at work, said waste paper could bring in Dh500 more a month. He said he could earn up to Dh20 a day in his free time, all of which he sent home to his family in India.

"If [picking up waste paper] was given a visa, I would give up my job and only do this," Rajesh said. "I can earn up to Dh2,500 a month if I was only doing this job."

For others it is the only source of income. A man who identified himself as NoorKhan said he collected rubbish and sold it to recycling plants, earning Dh20 to Dh30 a day. He said he was paid Dh50 for a tonne of paper.

"Many of my friends make a tonne in three to four days but I make it in only two days," he said. "I try to work pretty hard, but also stay away from harm's way as a number of my friends have been deported."

Several recycling plants said they were not offering jobs or paying anyone illegally for materials.

Residents who see violators can call the Sharjah Department of Residency and Foreign Affairs on its toll-free number, 80080.

ykakande@thenational.ae