Too Many Ragpickers

According to official figures, 7000 tons of waste is produced daily in Tehran.According to official figures, 7000 tons of waste is produced daily in Tehran.

The Tehran Municipality (TM) has announced several times in the past few years that it has plans to prevent ragpickers from salvaging waste from trash bins across the capital. However, so far no effective measures have been taken.

An Afghan waste picker Latif, interviewed by Azad News Agency, said his cousin who has lived in Iran for several years is earning “good money” as a waste picker. “Last year he encouraged me to come to Iran to work in this lucrative business. I was introduced to his ‘boss’ who offered me a monthly wage of $385 (15 million rials) and shared accommodation. Based upon the hours put in, we are paid even more,” he said, as reported by

While waste pickers receive adequate wages, their bosses make fat profits. “Ten others are working with me and each group covers a specific street,” Latif said.

“There are women workers also among us. They aren’t addicts, as is usually presumed; they do it for a livelihood.” However, the number of male waste pickers is far more than females. He is understandably silent about where the garbage collected is handed over to the ‘boss’.

  TM to Be Blamed

Rahmatollah Hafezi, head of Tehran City Council’s (TCC) Civil Service Commission pointing to the increasing number of waste pickers in the city blamed the TM for the problem.

“The TM spends more than $115 million (4,500 billion rials) each year for collecting waste from the capital’s streets; however it has not managed to solve the issue of illegal waste pickers which has resulted in an unhygienic environment that many residents find disheartening.”

This is the most inefficient and unsanitary way of collecting recyclable waste, he added.

He also criticized the old and ageing technology used by the garbage trucks of Tehran Waste Management Organization (TWMO) and noted the leachate spill from the trucks. “Regrettably, the trucks don’t have inbuilt tanks to collect the water leached out of the wet waste.”

  Segregation Scheme

Hussein Jafari, head of the TWMO maintains that if all the city’s residents implement the scheme for waste segregation at source, the number of waste pickers would decline.

Under the scheme, which has not proved successful as most of the capital’s ten million residents have failed to comply, dry waste should be sorted out from wet waste and handed over to recycling centers or placed in specific trash bins in every street.

But Hafezi says there are not enough recycling centers in all districts or separate trash bins.

According to official figures, 7000 tons of waste is produced daily in Tehran alone.

Explaining about dry waste (2,000 tons) Jafari said, “About 18-24% of dry waste is sorted, of which 95% is recycled. The remaining 5% (reusable items which are contaminated with non-recyclable materials, like a greasy pizza box) are disposed. In other words, about one-fifth of Tehran dry waste is recycled and 80% disposed.”

Every day, 5,600 tons of solid waste enters Kahrizak (Aradkouh) landfill, 24 km from the southernmost tip of Tehran. It has been in use for over 45 years and so far has received in excess of 35 million tons of waste.


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