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SPOONER: Sort your plastics and hand them to scrap collectors

Every day I see him wandering the streets.

I’ve seen him everywhere from Limuru Road to Ngong Road to Lang’ata Road and often on Waiyaki Way with his  grey hair curled beneath his sun-beaten cap.

His black leather jacket is holed and his shoes are  too ‘smart’ for the amount of walking I’ve seen him do. He used to have a back pack which disappeared a couple of months ago.

Now he only carries a Nakumatt bag flung over his shoulder.

This is Dickson. Last week I finally had the opportunity to stop my car to talk to him, something I’d been meaning to do for a while. I told him that I see him every day as he walks the city’s streets, his eyes glued to the ground.

He told me that he does this because of poverty – he is one of Nairobi’s many scrap collectors. Dickson spends his day picking up pieces of metal which he can then sell for Sh30 a kilo.

He explained that he spends most of his time walking by roads as this is where he finds most of the scrap– apparently cars in Nairobi are shedding quite a bit of metal.

But trying to survive in this way is a real struggle. With Nairobi’s rising prices, for Dickson to buy bread or milk he would need to sell over a kilo of metal which takes him days to collect.

Nairobi’s informal recyclers are everywhere and in the past year I’ve noticed an increase in the number of young men who collect plastic. You see these guys all over town carrying huge sacks of plastic on their backs.

For them, the task is arduous as they rummage through the bins and cans left outside gates. It is also unrewarding as they only earn Sh10 for every kilo they collect.

What moves me about Dickson and these other collectors is that they haven’t used their poverty as an excuse to turn to crime or begging. I appeal to Nairobians to separate their plastics and give it to them, a little help to these people, and the environment, at the same time.