Buy and donate preloved clothes with Oxfam and you can do more than fight landfill here in the UK. As this game-changing project in Jordan reveals…

Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan is now home to around 80,000 people who’ve been forced to leave their homes in war-torn Syria. As well as providing clean safe water and sanitation in the camp, Oxfam has helped launch a recycling project that’s fighting landfill and poverty simultaneously.

Recyclable waste – things like water bottles, buckets, plastic packaging, scrap metal and cardboard – is collected from around the camp, then taken to the recycling centre where it’s separated and prepped for selling on. The project means that more than 95% of households in Zaatari now recycle, with a fifth of waste from the camp kept out of local landfill sites – we’re talking over a thousand tonnes every month.

The project’s also providing an income for around 180 men and women. Jasem Al-Wrewir is one of them.

“Before the conflict in Syria began, my family and I lived in Al Ghouta, near Damascus,” he explains. “We had a house, a car and enough money to live comfortably. I was 40 years old, with a family and a successful business in waste management, that I’d built up over 15 years of hard work.”

Eventually the situation in Syria got so dangerous, his family had to flee, arriving in Zaatari camp in 2013. “Adapting to life as a refugee here was extremely difficult for us at first,” says Jasem. “We weren’t used to living in tents, to the unforgiving environment.” Waste was just one issue that made daily life harder. “In those days there was garbage everywhere – along with the insects and other pests that come with it.”

In 2015, things changed. Jasem was approached to help with and then co-manage a pilot recycling project on site. “I was so excited to be using my skills again,” he says. “Three years later, our small pilot project has grown and now collects waste from all districts across Zaatari camp… that’s 259 tonnes every week.”

As well as raising awareness about recycling, and collecting and prepping recyclable waste, people involved in the project have used their expertise with massively inspiring results. “Former tailors are making rugs for the winters out of old clothing, engineers are making mechanical toys for our children,” says Jasem. “And farmers have built multiple greenhouses from recycled bottles to grow fresh vegetables.”

The project has also given Jasem hope and plans for the future. “While it isn’t possible right now, I would love to build on what I have achieved here – to work in a recycling centre in one of the cities in Jordan, outside of the refugee camps.” Ultimately, he wants to go home. “One day, I hope that there will be peace in Syria, so that I can return with my family to rebuild my business and our beautiful country. Until that day, we are here.”

This project is just one way that the money raised from shopping and donating clothes to Oxfam helps people beat poverty. There are many more. Find out about our work.

Photo Credits: Sam Tarling/Oxfam, James Riturban/Oxfam

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