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The Unseen People

Felix Hidajat | Indonesia

Worker waits for one of the 600 trucks that arrive daily with trash from the city.

DKI Jakarta is one of the most crowded cities in Indonesia; in 2007, the population reached 7,552,444 people. The city has a high level of unemployment and the gap between incomes and classes continues to widen. Many people who move from the countryside end up working as scavengers in Indonesia’s biggest landfill at Bantar Gerbang.

Established in 1988, Bantar Gerbang is located in East Jakarta. Covering 272 acres, it operates 24/7 and holds more than 6000 tons of industrial waste that is delivered by more than 600 trucks daily. Roughly 5,000 workers, including women and children, live around Bantar Gerbang and work as trash pickers who sort and collect aluminum tins and plastic bottles.

Though Bantar Gerbang offers workers the opportunity to support their families, the jobs are dangerous and the working conditions are largely unregulated. Consequently, illnesses such as upper respiratory tract infections, tuberculosis, skin infections, and tapeworm are common among workers. Though the legal work-age in Indonesia is 15, it is not uncommon to find much younger children working at Bantar Gerbang as trash pickers.

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