Smokey Mountain, Cambodia

Smokey Mountain, Steung Mean Chey, is Phnom Penh’s municipal rubbish dump. Thousands work there, some 600 minors and 2000 adults, recycling the city’s rubbish, dumped there by garbage trucks every day.

The dump is notorious as many very young children work there. People eat and sleep overnight in the rubbish and fumes, under plastic tarpaulins or in the open air. They work 24 hours a day, like miners, with headlamps at night, collecting plastic, metals, wood, cloth and paper, which they sort and clean, weigh and sell, to be carried away for recycling.

A day's work typically brings less than a dollar per person. One and a half to two dollars per day per family.

The over-powering, acrid odor of grey smokey fumes blows across the dump, from which the place gets its name “Smokey Mountain”. It can be smelled miles away.

The shantytowns and squats, the recycling workers’ homes, butt onto or are inside the dump itself. There is no running water, nor sanitation, and many are ill.

Children often work with friends or relatives. Religious groups and NGOs help some children, but this is often resisted by families who need the extra income they generate.

— Nigel Dickinson