7 Communities Who Salvage Trash to Survive in the World’s Dumpsites

Image: Pierpaolo Mittica

A man wades through water surrounded by trash in Dharavi, Mumbai.

Extreme weather, toxic substances, foul odors, stray animals, disease, flies, and the general disdain of other sections of society – these are just a few of the hazards and hardships the rag pickers and refuse salvagers who live and work on dumpsites in poorer parts of the world must contend with daily. Yet the work they do – sorting through garbage and reclaiming whatever is usable – is both honest and worthy of respect.

Image: Ben Lievens

Birds circle as people toil on the garbage mound of Gramacho, Rio de Janeiro.

These people are grassroots recyclers – scavengers who give a second life to the plastics, glass, metals and other materials and objects they collect which would otherwise go to waste.