Storytelling / portrait

Waste Pickers

The hard work on the landfills in Dhaka, Bangladesh

In Dhaka, Bangladesh, thousands of people work as waste pickers on one of the biggest landfills. In heaps of trash, as far as the eyes can reach, they are looking for materials like plastic, metals, cow bones: everything which can be recycled and will get them a few Taka to be able to live. The work is not safe and they are not recognized as workers.


Mondiaal FNV asked us to put a human a face to the situation of waste recyclers in Bangladesh. To show the problems they experience and the first steps that are taken to improve the situation.


On one of the biggest landfills of the world, we joined the recyclers at work. While the excavators came close, Roderick caught how the men and women got close to have the best catch. We interviewed several waste recyclers. The result was a series of photos and stories for social media, website and publications. They were used as part of the book Change! that Mondiaal FNV made for their external relations.

Bringing it closer

The landfills in Dhaka were one of the most intense places to shoot: it was extremely hot, and Roderick – who was having fever on the day of the shoot – had to make his way through streams of fluids coming from the rotten trash. The smell of it is something we will remember for a long time. But when we start meeting the workers here, we instantly forget about all of this for a moment. Especially when I interview Muslima: a young woman who is carrying her two year old daughter on her hip, searching for recyclables materials, while the excavator is getting dangerously close. Her impressive story gets even closer the moment I notice the shirt of her daughter: it says ‘Hup Holland Hup’. It is that moment that I realize how far The Netherlands is on one hand, but on the other hand: how we are all connected as humans on this same planet!


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