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Child labour in the scrap-metal industry

Published:Wednesday | June 1, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Dr Marion Bullock DuCasse
Karl Samuda

  • Growing practice seems to be below the radar of state officials

Kaymian Weekley, Gleaner Writer

SOME CHILDREN, as young as seven years old, are getting involved in the scrap-metal trade by rummaging through garbage heaps and dumps to fetch discarded tins to sell to persons in the industry.

This has alarmed at least one health official, who was unaware of this practice.

The Gleaner news team recently saw a group of three children, the youngest seven years old, searching through a garbage heap in western St Mary for used tins.

The children were unsupervised and were not wearing protective gear as they dug through the residential waste.

"We are going to sell them to the scrap metal man for $10 a pound," said one of the girls as she held on to her precious treasures of empty tins.

a good commodity

A source from a trade company that is actively engaged in exporting the metal stock confirmed that the tins are currently being traded. "The tins are a good commodity for the metal industry," said the source.

He explained that, during his seven years in the industry, he has bought large quantities of tins from canning factories for export. However, some of these factories are now exporting the tins.

He added that a number of children and adults from inner-city communities are making their livelihood from the dumps.

Checks in other communities revealed that this is a practice that is growing, but, so far, it seems to have been taking place below the radar of state officials.

Dr Marion Bullock Ducasse, director of emergency disaster management and special services in the Ministry of Health, told The Gleaner that she was not aware of this dangerous practice.

"There is risk of injury moving through unsorted garbage, and if a person's skin is broken, it may facilitate bacterial entry," said Bullock Ducasse.

Industry Minister Karl Samuda, who has responsibility for the scrap-metal trade, also indicated that he had no knowledge of the children gathering discarded tins to be sold to the traders, but said he would hate to think that children were engaged in this activity.

"I will discuss it with my people," Samuda told The Gleaner.