Jordanian women drive eco-economy with recycling initiative

Join the green team: Jordanian women drive eco-economy in Irbid with recycling initiative
3 min read
The Solid Waste Management Project is a Jordanian women-run recycling initiative set up in 2019 in the Jordan Valley. The project has succeeded in transforming the formerly polluted site, boosting the local economy and providing jobs.

Early in the morning, 20-something Istabraq Mohammad starts her working day at a waste-sorting station in Irbid province in the northern part of the Jordan Valley, where she hands out general safety equipment to staff to protect them from risk of infection.

Istabraq's job is feeding all the plastic waste into a machine which crushes it ready to be converted into new plastic products. She then switches focus to the cardboard waste – this needs to be inserted into a giant press which folds and packs it so that it can be sold to carton factories. Though she has a degree in early child education which would allow her to work in nurseries and schools, she prefers her work in the refuse-sorting station, and says the pay is better too.

Protecting nature and providing jobs

Istabraq is employed in a unique, recycling initiative in Jordan, which was started up by a group of women from the Jordan Valley area. The Solid Waste Management Project aims to improve the way solid waste is dealt with in the area and to protect the environment in what was formerly a fertile, farming district, as well as enabling the women involved to earn a wage and improve their financial situations.

"The Solid Waste Management Project aims to improve the way solid waste is dealt with in the area and to protect the environment in what was formerly a fertile, farming district"

The project is managed by the Northern Jordan Valley Pioneers Cooperative Society and funded by the UN Development Programme and the Canadian Embassy in Jordan. It was launched in May 2019 with 60 women participating initially, though this has dropped to 46 today. The women gather and sort solid waste into separate categories - plastics, metals, cardboard and paper. This is then prepared and packed to be sold to factories where it will be recycled.

Recycling building regional resilience

Israa al-Shamlouni, the project manager, says in a conversation with Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, The New Arab's Arabic-language sister publication: "We buy the solid rubbish from the local community, recycle it and sell it on to factories. This gives a source of income to local people as well as to the women – helping to sustain local families and help them cover their living costs".

The staff at the station are paid for hours worked - whenever there is more work at the station, their wages go up. Abeer Abu Abta is in her thirties and has worked at the station since its establishment - she is the breadwinner for a family of six. Through her work she endeavours to cover the costs of her family's daily needs and improve their standard of living.

Environment and Climate
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Mohammed al-Shimali, engineer and head of the Irbid Joint Services Council, says: "The project has had a positive impact on the environment in the area, in fact it has saved this area, which was designated to become a landfill site. The high levels of pollution in the area due to poor waste management had led to it being considered one of the environmental hotspots in the region, and had negatively affected the agricultural sector and the groundwater".

Al-Shimali adds that the project has helped the women provide for their families in one of the poorest regions in the country.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition. To read the original article click here.

Translated by Rose Chacko