KOTA KINABALU: The Kayu Madang landfill (pix) near here has become a haven for individuals who are generating an income by salvaging materials from the 8.9-hectare area.

Bernama checks at the landfill, located about 24 kilometres from Kota Kinabalu city centre, found several groups of these scavengers or waste pickers rummaging through mountains of rubbish on the site daily, with some of them working from morning to midnight.

It seemed that these individuals were moving in groups. Local groups kept to themselves and did not mix with foreigners, comprising undocumented immigrants, with some of them claiming to be holders of IMM13 passes (documents issued to Filipino refugees who fled to Sabah between 1972 and 1984, following unrest in the southern Philipines).

One of the pickers, Saharuddin Zainul, 35, from Telipok, said that he had been scavenging recyclable items for the past four years, which started off with him following a friend.

“We are used to this site. Sure there is a horrible stench as well as it being dirty, but it is not a problem for us. We are looking for discarded items that can be recycled, such as aluminium cans, glass bottles and plastics of every variety, and many more. What is important for us is that we can collect these items as our income, and what we do is an honest job and halal,” he said when met by Bernama.

Saharuddin said that he would collect the items for a week before selling them at a price of between RM300 and RM500, depending on the market price and the type of recycled items collected.

“At first I couldn’t stand the stench of the garbage, but my determination to earn my own money means that I continue doing this job, and after a while, I got used to the atmosphere here. Nowadays, it is hard to find a job, what’s more, I only completed my standard six at primary school.

“Previously, I tapped rubber but the price of rubber latex was fairly low and the rubber trees I tapped did not produce much latex, so I decided to continue collecting recyclable items that can be resold,” he added.

Saharuddin added that he did find various valuable items while sifting through waste such as gold chains and many other items at the landfill.

He said that once, in 2018, he found a box in a discarded cupboard which contained jewellery including a gold ring and chain, which he sold to a nearby shop because he was in dire need of some cash at that time.

“I often find various electrical appliances that are still in working condition or those which could be repaired. So, I often bring home electrical appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines and fans. If the items need some repairs, then I would repair them first and sell them to friends,” he said.

Meanwhile, another waste picker, Mohd Amirul Asneh, 25, said that although scavenging recyclable items at landfills was looked down upon by the community, he never felt ashamed to carry on what he was doing.

“I have heard some friends say that we, who collect recyclable items at landfills, are dirty people as the area is filled with garbage and unbearable stench.

“But I do not pay attention to those words, because this is an honest job. The dirty people are those who are willing to steal from others. I will continue doing this job until I get a better job opportunity,” he said.

Despite the foul smells enveloping the landfill, it appeared that these individuals were unperturbed.

Dozens of garbage trucks were also seen coming in and out of the landfill area, and as soon as the garbage trucks arrived, many, especially Filipinos, were seen swarming the fresh load of waste just being deposited at the site. -Bernama