UAE | Crime

Sharjah tightens noose around trash scavengers

Underground trash traders making millions in unauthorised sales to recyclers

  • By Faisal Masudi, Staff Reporter
  • Published: 21:20 September 23, 2012
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
  • Say no to violators posters against collecting trash from rubbish bins, put up in Sharjah. They can be seen on Old Airport/ Immigration Road and parts of the Buhairah Corniche.

Sharjah: Authorities in Sharjah plan to crackdown on illegal scrap dealers and trash scavengers whose activities pose a public health and safety risk, an official said.

The illegal collection and sale of recyclable waste was highlighted by Gulf News last week.

The report exposed how an army of scavengers have been recruited by unauthorised scrap traders to scour a Dubai landfill, near the Sharjah border, for metal, plastic and paper worth a fortune to recyclers.

Officials from Sharjah Police, immigration and the municipality are joining forces to curb the underground trade.

The Sharjah Environment Co, better known as Bee’ah, is also involved in the efforts, which include dedicated “anti-scavenging teams.”

“New legislation by Sharjah Municipality is expected soon against this activity. Sharjah Police and Bee’ah are also working together on this,” said Ibrahim Al Houti, Bee’ah’s vice-president for operations. “We’re presently observing a situation of high levels of waste scavenging activity, where violators are collecting volumes of recyclable paper and cardboard from municipal waste collection bins located around Sharjah, and selling them directly to scrapers.”

To raise awareness, officials have set up posters on main roads to warn against the practice. The public service ads show pictures of scavengers rummaging trash bins and creating a mess on the roads.

The posters include a slogan: “Say No to Violators.”

They can be seen on Old Airport/Immigration Road and parts of the Buhairah Corniche, among other places in Sharjah.

Al Houti said: “This is a health concern to them and to the general population, as they could be potential pathways to transmit various diseases due to unsafe handling of waste materials and lack of protective equipment.”

“That’s why we are currently addressing this issue with the Sharjah Municipality and the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs of Sharjah to introduce guidelines and laws to prevent waste scavenging in the Emirate,” He added.

Industry sources believe the blackmarket cash for trash trade is worth tens of millions of dirhams.

Gulf News reported last week how the scavengers say up to a thousand of them raid the landfill on Fridays, outnumbering the guards on duty to monitor the vast site.

One scavenger, who makes around Dh600 a month from the illegal practice, admitted: “A few of us keep the guards busy with chases, while others collect the stuff. We’ve got our own turfs and teams.”

Al Houti said: “Demand for aluminium and paper recycling is increasing in our region — the former is especially very high in demand by recycling firms. Last year, the anti-scavenging team collected an average of 300 tonnes per month of cardboard alone, that’s not to mention how much is available in aluminium and plastic materials. This translates to millions of dirhams worth of material diverted out of the proper waste management system and sold illegally to scrapers.”

Residents have been urged to report any scavenging activity on 800-Tandeef (800-8263333) or by notifying Sharjah Police.

To view our video of the illegal scrap pickers, log on to

Comments (6)

  1. Added 18:47 September 24, 2012

    Agree with riz too.... If anything , the practice should be encouraged. we all need to recycle more !!

    ZK, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 13:17 September 24, 2012

    Well said riz!! This is how people should think in today's world.

    Linda, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 12:58 September 24, 2012

    I agree and appreciate the views and suggestion by riz. It's positive thinking.

    dr zubair hashmi, ajman, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 12:55 September 24, 2012

    i see this different, if companies and the others are not able to organize a proper waste management, these people are doing a quite great job to collect and bring it to the right places (for a couple of dirhams)

    abel.m, rak, Austria

  5. Added 11:12 September 24, 2012

    Very good move from Sharjah Authority. Really it is very difficult to walk on road because of the cyclist carriying such a huge size of scarp and paperboard, etc. Especially while walking on subway. they are riding the cycles very fast and not allowing people to walk. If conserned Authority just check on Al Wadha subway more than 100 cyclist collecting these scarp passing through it.

    Robert, sharjah, United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 10:45 September 24, 2012

    I think its a blessing in disguise. other than the unsightly view of a man digging in to the garbage dump, it does help tremendously with recycling. What the authorities must do is use this hidden labour. They should hand out cheap kits (gloves, masks etc) for anyone who wants to do this to ensure their safety. Give them short trainings so they know how to collect without creating a mess. Then create a channel for them to deliver recyclable material to official collection points to prevent sales to unauthorized dealers. Thats what i would call a win win situation.

    riz, dubai, United Arab Emirates

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