Recycling the plastic we throw to make a living: Nazaruddin’s work in Slave Island

On a walk down one of the many byroads of Slave Island during midday, we encountered a curious sight: a fairly elderly man wearing a sarong and a dusty green cap, sitting cross-legged on the side of the road next to a gushing tap by the gutter and surrounded by a sea of plastic bottles and bottle caps. Every now and then the man would drop a short length of chain into one of the bottles, screw on the lid and shake it furiously. Once satisfied the bottle was clean on the inside, he would scrub at the outside, peeling away the old label with the aid of a soapy brush. An almost empty cup of tea perched on top of the tap collecting stray suds.

The scene was so fascinating that we had to stop and ask him about his odd profession. He was too busy to talk at the time, and wouldn’t be distracted from his task, but looked away long enough to give us his phone number and address. The promise of his story was too good to miss.

Despite his brusque manner on the day we met, we found Abdul Cader Nazaruddin to be cheerful and full of chatter when we visited him at his home. He was also surprisingly young – 48 years had flecked his hair with grey and days out in the sun had toughened his dark skin. His wife, a large smiling woman, could never quite get used to the camera and giggled uncontrollably every time we directed it her way.

Read Nazaruddin’s full story and see his video here.

Produced by Sharni Jayawardena and Tarika Wickremeratne, as part of Walkabout: Slave Island. Watch the trailer to this series below, and visit the Moving Images website for more stunning content on Sri Lanka.