In Turkey there is no official recycling and no educational advertising about it, so people have no awareness about the whole issue and you see them chucking their waste away, everywhere but not into the trash. The streets and even the beaches are filled up with waste and nobody seems to do anything about it.
Greasy private companies are taking advantage of this circumstance and they appoint desperate workmen to be human trash cans of the ruthless consumption society of Turkey. There are supposed to give the people the feeling that their waste just disappears, so they throw away more and more and more. Because the more waste on the streets, they merrier is the revenue and the fatter the bellies of the bosses.
In Istanbul you see these workmen everyhwere. Crawling with a big sack barrow full of plastic or cardboard; with unremarkable movement they are unnoticed by the passerbys, so I call them “shadow workers”. Most of them are refugees of the middle east with no perspectives or other illegals with a life of constant anxiety.
I met four of them. They told me that they came all the way from Afghanistan for a better life in modern Turkey and found themselves in the vicious circle of modern slavery. I wanted to give them a real voice with a face, but sadly I lost all my notes with all their names. It’s a shame, I know…
Although I remember how they told me how hard it is to pull the barrow all day, all night and all-weather in the dirty alleys up and down, without getting any recognition at all. How embarrassing it felt when they rummaged through all the litter for the first time and how they miss their families back home and that the family is the reason why they can stand all this shit. It gives them the power to live in an old rotten framehouse which is ridiculously patched by cardboards and close to collapse which is located right next to a stinky waste dumping site where they work. They invited me to have a look inside their living space. They explained that they share the two rooms with 6 others, people like them. It stank so bad, everything was wet inside. They had one electric kettle, no cupboard, no kitchen, no bathroom. Everything there must be noxious and I don’t want to think about a situation when they are in need of medical attention.
Some of them will return to Afghanistan in a couple of years, but nobody knows what is waiting for them. “Let’s see waht the future has to offer” has suddenly a whole different seriousness.