Saudi expat workers dig up ‘sponge’ from garbage dump to earn a living

Asian worker Mohammed Nazir takes his bicycle every day to a garbage dump in the northern industrial zone of Hail to dig up sponge from damaged car seats and household furniture. He then sells the sponge to recycling factories. Nazir seems to not care for the environmental pollution this process is causing in addition to the illegal nature of what he is doing.

Nazir said that his work is enough to generate more than SR600 per month, which encouraged him to continue, especially since his salary from his basic work does not exceed one thousand riyals, suggesting that he takes advantage of time between his two official work shifts in the afternoon to go to the garbage dump and start exploring.

Nazir said he extracts sponge from damaged car seats, as well as home furniture, and sells it to Asian workers for 85 halala per kg, which they sell to the recycling plants.

Nazir is watching the garbage dump near the industrial area daily and exploring the sponge, pointing out that a number of his colleagues are doing the same and they are developing their skills. In fact, some have taken up this process as their main job commuting via their vehicles to remote garbage dump locations.

He said: “By virtue of my work, I can only do this during two hours of my time, which is my break from my main job. I use my bike to go to the nearest target looking for sponge.”

“The search for sponge is somewhat useful, especially since it does not cost very much,” he said, adding that he receives about SR800 a month, the same amount he gets through his main job.

Another worker, Jibril Mir, buys sponge from the laborer who it up from the landfill, at 85 halala per kg, indicating that he collects it at his house and then sells it for two riyals per kg to a factory for recycling.

Mir revealed that there is cooperation between him and decoration shops that design furniture locally to buy quantities of spare sponge. He said that he cooperates with 12 stores in Hail and buys from them one kilogram for two riyals and sells it to the factories.

A number of Hail residents called on the municipality to control the situation and put an end to the abuses of those workers who spread pollution in the region, wondering about the role of the authorities in controlling violations committed by workers.

President of the Media Center in the Hail Municipality, Saad Al-Thueni, said that the landfill operation is immediately done at garbage dumping locations, pointing out that some factories and workshops dispose off their waste in the land space in a different way

He pointed out that there has been supervision of those violators, and if caught they would be fined according to the regulations. They are required to remove the waste, stating that investigating sponge activities is not within the municipality’s responsibility.

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