HAITI: WASTE IN TIME
In a 200-acre-plus dump 5 kilometers north of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, hundreds of men, women and children scavenge day and night through the burning wasteland. They earn $12 to $15 a day — on a good day — for recycling plastics as well as clothing, household items and aluminum (for smelting). Some 5,000 tons of waste is created each day in the Port-au-Prince area.
'Waste In Time' represents Haiti's desperate struggle to lift itself from the depths of misery and corruption that has run rampant in Haiti for decades.
The vast landfill is owned by the government and situated directly above the Plain Cul-De-Sac aquifer - the same water that provides drinking water for the poorest neighborhoods of Port-Au-Prince. After the devastating earthquake in 2010, which killed over 230,000 people in the Port-Au-Prince area, millions more of tons of rubble was dumped at the site further condemning the land and quickly polluting any remaining clean water in the shallow aquifer.
Today, there are around 2,000 people who make up this 'dump community'. They do not have medical help or clean water to wash in and work amongst mountains of dioxin-smoking waste that grow daily only yards from where families live in rough tin shacks. Despite growing health issues related to the toxins being carelessly dumped, none of the solid waste disposal companies contracted by the government provide their workers with anything more plastic gloves.
Most of the dump recyclers have major respiratory and other health issues. The landscape is filled with the smoke from burning rubber, plastics and garbage. Large pigs roam the mountains of trash, feeding off the rotting household waste. They are eventually killed and sold by the internal dump-appointed bosses.
Most alarming is the amount of unregulated medical waste dumped here from city hospitals and clinics. “We see needles and medical waste.. and often find bodies - they dump everything here,” said one of the recyclers.
Ringing the dump, still within the clouds of drifting toxic smoke, are hundreds of corrugated tin shacks, where the workers live and deal in the various recycling side businesses that the trash provides.
Photographing this area is a challenge. Many of the dwellers have fled the city and gang affiliations and do not want to be seen. As the Haitian National Police rarely visit here, it has become a safe haven for some of Port-au-Prince’s more shady characters.