Trash in(g) Amman


Long time readers may recall this writer’s infatuation with trash and how it gets where it’s going.  I feel like I’ve spoken about it a lot. From looking out my front window, this is my thoughts about how garbage is handled in Amman once we generate it and leave it outside of our front door. .All of this is based on hearsay and observation.
Sulieman our boab, (house elf) , makes a couple of rounds per day to all the units in our building collecting garbage and taking it to a set of dumpsters in the vacant lot next door. This is combined with trash from 8 or 10 other buildings.  Dumpsters are dispersed every 500 feet or so on the main roads.  Back streets have a bit longer walk to throw things away.
A standard city garbage truck swings by and empties dumpsters 4 or more times per week.  I don’t see them on Fridays, but they can show up most days usually just before dawn, and just before my alarm is set to ring.
In between collections, a variety of other visitors happen by the dumpster.  It starts with the cats.  I don’t know where they go when the dumpsters are empty, but when full each dumpster generally has 2 or 3 felines per dumpster. Balanced along the rim or deep inside the garbage. Sustained on a diet of plastic bags and food scraps. I haven’t seen a lot of rats, but certainly there must be some.
Bedouins or refugees make the rounds of the neighborhood.  Typically, they have a rusty white pick up or other utility vehicle that leans to one side, is lacking a muffler and most functioning forms of illumination. The driver stops, hops out and grabs a nearby rock to throw under the front wheel to save him having to chase his car down the hill.
He proceeds to pull plastic bags out of the dumpster and throw the contents on the ground, taking what he needs. Usually metal, but also cardboard, cloth and other scraps.  The remainder is scattered to the winds.  The plastic bags take flight. Jordanians call plastic bags, their national bird.
Glass is not recycled. And after nearly 2 years of wondering why, I finally learned the answer.
The areas around dumpsters are strewn with broken glass. I wondered for a while, why glass wasn’t more valued.  We tried for a while to gather glass separately, but it would be taken to the dumpster and then thrown on the ground.
It turns out that the closest glass recycling plant was in Syria. After the troubles there, the border shut down and no one could get the used glass up there, so the market crashed and no one wanted glass.  Another consequence of the ongoing conflict there.
The ground around the dumpster, as you can imagine, becomes a bit of a toxic mess of glass, food scraps and other detritus.  Bin Men circulate and sweep and scoop things up and try and keep things manageable.
Once a month, a front-end loader drives by and either scoops up trash or grades over it with a thin layer of dirt and rock and for a week or so, things look rather tidy.
If you want to get rid of more valuable items, the scrap buyer circulates. A large loudspeaker mounted on the cab announces what he’s buying.  It plays and ear splitting volumes.  He cycles around twice, so when you hear him the first, you move your stuff to the curb and catch him the second time around.
Where the collected trash goes from the dumpster, I’m not sure.  I presume to a landfill of some sort.  Some place where all the “birds’ can roost together and flap in the wind.


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