Liban, place aux jeunes - La jeunesse et le système D
6mois Magazine, la revue du photojournalisme
Dans le cadre de sa nouvelle formule trimestrielle, 6Mois se consacre intégralement une fois par an à un pays. Ce numéro spécial « Un pays vu de l'intérieur » est consacré au Liban, sous la co-direction de l'équipe de 6Mois et d'Arthur Sarradin, coordinateur éditorial.
Over the past decades, trash bins have become a common sight across Lebanon, littering every street corner, awaiting collection by Sukleen. Meanwhile, small groups of individuals, mostly children, tirelessly sort through the city's waste from morning till night, recovering materials like plastic to resell. Rain or shine, day or night, they work relentlessly, using their hands. Abandoned not only by the government but also by organizations and associations, they have become a part of the backdrop. Who are they? Does this arduous and meticulous work provide for their needs?
On a street corner in Kraytem, a southern neighborhood of Beirut, Jacem, 23, Khaled, 17, Walid, 16, and Maher, 11, sort through waste to salvage materials they can later sell. Originally from Raqqa, these four brothers fled the Syrian war in 2011. They now live in the working-class neighborhood of Mar Elias with their family.
They work in the Kraytem area, between three waste collection points. For the past five years, these siblings have taken turns, working seven days a week, tirelessly sorting to collect plastic, which they will sell by the kilo to a dealer. This strenuous and meticulous work sustains their entire family's daily needs.
When I asked what could be done to help and raise awareness, he simply replies that he expects nothing from anyone, but he is grateful to know that people are doing some sorting at home. He explains that he would like people to at least sort glass, as they often cut themselves since they can't afford cut-resistant gloves.
Jacem is humble, respectful, and gentle. After facing many rejections from other groups of waste sorters, Jacem is the only one accepting without discomfort.
"I don't think about tomorrow nor yesterday. I am here, I work and I only think about today. Every morning, we start at 7 am and finish the next day at 1 am, after selling the day's collection. If we don't work, we don't eat," explains Jacem, who used to work in construction. He then tells me that he stopped working in construction because they were always late with payments and sometimes didn't pay at all. That's why he decided to focus on waste sorting, which he sees as any other job. "At least now, I get paid as much as I work."
Every day, they collect around 40 kg of plastic, which they later sell for 10,000 LL per kg to a man in Mar Elias, who then resells it to a factory. This allows them to earn approximately 1,000,000 LL per day, covering the basic needs of their entire family. (At the current exchange rate, about $15 per day, $350 per month).
Navigating their challenging circumstances in Lebanon remains a preferable choice compared to the hardships faced in Syria. Despite this, they lament the absence of support from NGOs and the lack of attention from others, leaving them largely overlooked and unheard.
They store the items they find and could potentially resell at their homes: light bulbs, empty perfume bottles, clothing, and more. Rarely do they keep the items they discover, such as the Quran found one day in one of the bins.
They aspire for their children to attend school and are actively seeking a solution. However, they are unsure about the steps to take, and the school fees pose a significant challenge. The adults also express a desire to learn English, reflecting their eagerness for self-improvement and growth.