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Rubble Recycling: Rebuilding Gaza Strip

November 13, 2012

-Photo by author

Recycling has become one of the most important fields of business in the Gaza strip. The strip benefits from it economically because of the elevated and mounting unemployment in the area; and prominently because it requires a relatively small start up capital.

“Many people especially those who don’t have enough capital or cannot take loans tend to move towards the recycling industry since its material is available easily and can be resold,” Ali Abu Shahla, an economic analyst said.

A group of Gazan women are overcoming problems of soaring unemployment, while achieving self-empowerment and raising environmental awareness, all with rather unconventional resource garbage.

With funding from the non-government organisation ‘Supporters of Palestinian Environment’ a project has been launched that trains and assists 24 women in creating craft items for sale out of household garbage.

The 45-year-old project manager, Kamelia Hadad said: “We provide lessons with the necessary instructions and tools to equip young women, guiding them to use spare materials in their house to create any means of art that may be sold in order to make a living.”

Women in this group modify old macaroni and straws into wonderful pieces of art and sell it; they also use extra pieces of wood and paper to make remarkable picture frames.

-Photo by author

Years ago, the culture of recycling was inaccessible in the Strip since the society of Gaza is considered a rather ‘consuming’ one, where most of the products that come into the Gaza Strip are through the borders with Israel.

It all started after the Hamas movement took over Gaza in the year 2007. Israel implemented a siege on the Strip where raw materials were in short supply because of the continuous blockade that hurt ordinary Gazans.

Nowadays, recycling isn’t only common because it’s profitable for those whose work revolves around it but because it can have other advantages that are artistic and environmental as well.

“We used to buy scraps of metal and machinery from wherever we could; anything that can be refurbished,” said Mohammed al Mansi, vice chairman of Gaza’s metal industries union.

“We would take a metal tube that has been damaged and create a smaller one out of it, as if it were new. This is all we can do until the borders open up again because of frequent Israeli strikes on Gaza’s metal workshops, which Israel claims.”

Most of the building materials that enter Gaza are still being brought in through tunnels which makes them exorbitant. That’s why most people who want to build their homes look for recycled materials to build with.

The area east of Gaza City is littered with stone-crushing factories which are distinguishable from the huge clouds of dust that hang over them. These factories buy rubble from bombed buildings, crush it down into pebbles and refashion them into new bricks, allowing Gaza to be rebuilt, in spite of the ban on construction materials.

-Photo by author

Palestinians in Gaza have defied the ban on construction materials since the siege began; turning what was once a blooming trade into a necessary business required to rebuild the territory. It is a bittersweet industry, but in besieged Gaza, nothing can go to waste.

Fragments of short-lived prosperity – whether a shattered plastic pipe, the buttons of a remote control or a tiny coil of copper wire – are salvaged and resurrected however possible. Some appliances are dissected and sacrificed to revive others. Where they are available, old Israeli parts rejuvenate Gazan appliances. Here, even the recycled is recycled.

In the Jabaliya refugee camp’s Khorda market, or literally the “things of no use” market, the purr of gasoline-fueled generators is punctuated by the clank of hammers and the tinkering of busy hands.

In Rafah, southern Gaza strip, the first factory was built to distribute and recycle garbage.

-Photo by author

The factory has a good economic value not only because it creates revenue from worthless resources but also because it provides working opportunities for men and women in the area.

The isolation has made the economy of Gaza almost entirely dependent on foreign aid with unemployment reaching up to 40 per cent. At least 60 per cent Gazans are living under the poverty line, while 80 per cent of Gazans almost entirely depend on international aid.

Recycling solid trash goes through several procedures since it is first divided by type; glass, plastic, iron and hard metal, carton, and organic leftovers.

-Photo by author

Each particle of trash is then processed through different measures – whether being burned or mixed up upon the need of its use. Then the recycled trash is cleaned and packed, ready to be sent out to other factories which may use it for their industries.

Traders come from all over the Gaza Strip to the factory which produces around 20 tons of cast-off garbage to buy the recycled products.

Nafez Abd Al Salam, a glass trader said: “I take around 10 tons of broken glass a week to make glass doors and windows. This broken material is very cheap; hence it allows me a small profit when I resell it.

Mr. Mohammed Abd Al Hanfiz, an environment engineer said: “Everything can be reused; even organic usage can be recycled and used as organic manure which has great health benefits.

Arwa Barahma, a worker working at the station said: “In the beginning, I doubted that this project could make any income at all because I thought that no one could ever be interested in trash but now, when I’ve seen people actually buy these products; I have no choice but to change my mind.”

Tamer Abu Kwaik, a civilian engineer, said “people here recycle everything since nothing here goes to waste; even the rubble of destroyed houses and facilities is reused to build new houses.”

Gazans remain resilient in the face of ongoing attacks, adamantly rebuilding their country. A stroll through central Gaza City makes it apparent that Palestinians living in the coastal enclave have resorted to ingenious methods to keep Gaza’s homes and businesses running in what is being called ‘rubble recycling.’

With the unpredictability of life in the Strip, recycled materials emerge as a surprising yet welcome assurance for Gazans.


The writer is based in Gaza strip – Palestinian territories and has been working as a journalist and Human Rights activist. He has also covered many events in this war zone for several international TV’s and newspapers around the world. He can be reached via email:


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.