Samuel Waweru, 28, a resident of Ha-Kairu - a shopping centre adjacent to Kenyatta University Ruiru campus has been a collector of recyclable materials from dumping sites within the surrounding Ruiru town since 2015.
Two years down the line and he has never looked back.
When he started, Waweru only had a gunny bag which he still uses today as he goes round several landfill sites. He uses this, and other sacks, to carry his “precious” findings comprising of empty bottles, cans, torn shoes, plastics and pieces of metals.
These are then all sorted neatly into separate bundles or sacks because different types of materials fetch different prices when sold.
“I wade through rubbish, broken glasses and hazardous materials collecting scrap metals, plastics and other recyclable materials to sell and earn a living. Doing this ensures I do not sleep hungry or out in the cold,” Waweru says.
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He does the collection from Monday to Saturday and only rests on Sundays after doing general cleaning in the morning hours.
In a good day, Samuel says he makes about Sh3,000 and less than a thousand on days he considers bad. His earnings are determined by the kilogrammes and the type of materials collected. He occasionally hires a hand cart to transport these collections to where he sells them.
While he is always assured of a continuous income since people dump these materials regularly, the job is not without its share of challenges.
“Middlemen buy these recyclable materials from collectors, they then sort, clean and sell them to scrap dealers. It is these middlemen and scrap dealers who often make huge profits.
“This work is also very tiresome since I have to move from one site to the other collecting these materials. Some of these dumping sites are located in restricted areas such as military camps and institutions of higher learning,” he says.
Waweru, however, says he has no regret over the path he has chosen. Not only is he earning a living from his work, he is also playing a part in keeping the environment clean.