By Reza Hamidi
Most children who raid dumpsters in Tehran are homeless ethnic Afghans who, along with their families, live rough on the outskirts of the city or in enclosed garages, according to Tehran’s Deputy Mayor Mohammad Reza Javadi-Yeganeh.
In comments reported by the Islamic Republic News agency (IRNA), Mr. Javadi-Yeganeh, said: “The poverty level has increased in Tehran in recent years, forcing many families to send their children into the street to peddle goods or collect trash. Tragically, these children do not attend school.”
“Most of these children are ethnic Afghans,” Javadi-Yeganeh noted. “They live with their families in garages or dugout shelters on the outskirts of the city.”
“These children are driven in cars and deposited in small groups at designated spots in the city every day,” Javadi-Yeganeh explained. “Each group separates, collects, and bags all the dry [solid] waste. They are picked up at midnight and driven to enclosed garages in the city. They separate the solid waste the following morning and sell it.”
“Under the terms of their contracts with the city, companies that collect solid waste may not hire untrained workers and children younger than 18 years old. However, many use minors illegally,” Javadi-Yeganeh said. “The current situation is the unfortunate and unexpected consequence of placing 50,000 dumpsters in the city. Waste is known as ‘dirty treasure’ among the foragers. It has created an entirely new profession of urban foraging.”
“We held several meetings with the head of the mayor’s office for urban development, the deputy mayor in charge city services, and the directors of the waste organization, city beautification office, and district commissioners to discuss the problem,” Javadi-Yeganeh explained. “We also visited the site of some dugout shelters, where Tehran homeless lived and slept rough and spoke to several children. Local district commissioners will deal with contractors who hire underage children to collect and separate solid waste.”
“All bins in the city have a barcode, making it easy to identify the contractor in a particular district. So people should dial the City switchboard, 137, if they see minors collecting waste from a specific trash bin,” Javadi-Yeganeh noted. “We will deal decisively with these contractors because they exploit some people.”
“Children who collect waste are victims, not criminals. They are being exploited. We aim to change the situation and deal with the actual culprits, namely the contractors who break the law,” Javadi-Yeganeh added.
This article was translated and adapted from Persian by Fardine Hamidi.