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UAE’s “Carton Men”: Collecting tonnes of boxes by Cycling 80km a day& hours on Foot

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The “Carton man Project” was initiated to support these collectors

UAE: Many localities in Dubai and Sharjah produce tonnes of carton boxes every day. These boxes are either discarded outside of stores or collected at any spot.

Carton men collect these boxes, either by stacking them behind their bicycles or by carrying them on their heads to the collection spots. In every commercial area of the nation, there are hundreds of them at work.

One of the men working in the Satwa region, Haneef, told Khaleej Times that he has been gathering cartons for the past 16 years. He is known by almost every shop and he visits each shop at the same time.

From around 60 stores in Satwa, Haneef collects more than 100 kg of cartons every day. According to him, his day begins at 6 in the morning. For him, the grocery stores and supermarkets became the first and last stops in the morning and evening because of the huge production of cartons.

With all this hard work, Haneef earns around Dh50-80 daily and at times a restaurant offers lunch and breakfast, which helps him to save money.

Similarly, Shashi, an Indian ex-pat from Hyderabad travels to Diera early at 5 am to pick up the cartons of the previous day. Collecting cartons from Diera is done by a cleaning firm and Shashi has to collect the cartons and hand them over to the assigned firm.

Shashi added that he gathers almost 100 kg of cartons every day by 2 pm. He collects these from the local firms and disposes them to the company’s assigned location.

Over 150 men work in around 30 collection points in Diera. One individual collects around 100-200 kg of cartons per day which indicates that more than 15 tonnes of cartons are gathered each day, he continued. These men collect these cartons by walking due to the proximity and number of shops.

Aziz, who works out of Industrial Area 6, Sharjah gives a different statement. According to him they start at 7 in the morning and gather about 20-30 kg of boxes until 1 pm.

Aziz dumps the piles of cartons he has collected from grocery stores, electronics stores, vehicle spare part stores, etc. onto a yard in Industrial Area 10. He also stated that he rides his bicycle more than 6 km to collect the boxes and another 6 kilometres to dump them in the yard.

Every day, Aziz cycles approximately 80 miles to collect and dump cartons, earning Dh60. Occasionally he makes an extra 20-30 dirhams when he collects until 9 p.m.

For the past 8 years, Aziz with this routine earned money and was able to arrange his daughter’s marriage as well as built a small house.

These people were noticed by an Italian ex-pat, Marco Fraschetti. He was a performing arts consultant, photographer and composer, who has spent the past 20 years in UAE and initiated a project that gave recognition to these people. The Instagram feed “Cartonman Project” was created by him.

Fraschetti’s next step is to chat with them, interview them on camera and even follow them to learn more about what they do. This page encourages the “carton guys” to adopt safe procedures.

Fraschetti plans to give them visibility jackets with illuminated strips so they can be safe on the roads at night. He also plans to raise awareness about these men and inform the public about the work they do by curating an exhibition later this year.

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