Families finding "treasure" at Tafa'igata landfill

For two Samoan families living next to the Tafa'igata Landfill, the quote “one man’s trash is another man’s treasurer” is literally making a difference in their lives.

Twenty-nine-year-old, Alamai Saofatu, a mother of five children from Malie-uta, recently lost her husband but she and her children are able to get by through the selling of aluminium products.

“The best time to go hunting for aluminium objects is around the evening when the sun is not too hot,” she told the Samoa Observer.

Collecting aluminium cans by rummaging through the rubbish, the mother and her children take their aluminium cans to be weighed at the Pacific Recycle Co. Ltd. 

The company pays $0.70 sene for one kilogramme.


“If we are fortunate, we can get $40 a week to survive on from gathering aluminium objects. 

"In all honesty, it is not easy to go through rubbish looking for what you need, after an hour your back will hurt and covered in dirt,” she said. 

“I have five children to care for and if I cannot find anything, they cannot survive but thankfully some of our relatives that live us with assist us.”

Most of the money they make from selling recycled items is spent on food, especially for the children.

 “We live with our relatives that have more than ten people comprised of mostly children there is always a need for money.” 

The family of Leaia Pati, who also live at the landfill, make much more from collecting empty coke and beer bottles.


“My husband is in charge of collecting coke or beer glass bottles to resell at the companies such as Samoa Breweries Limited so we can get some money,” she said. 

“We were able to get $200 from all the bottles my husband collected. It is true that the Tafa'igata landfill is full of rubbish but amidst the waste there are valuable things to be collected which we need for survival.”

Old lawn mowers that are discarded can also be fixed, Mrs. Pati added, and her husband keeps an eye out for the machines. 

Malaeliua Tele, another mother who is also from Malie-uta and stays at the back of the landfill, said other people pass through her home to access the rubbish dump.

They mainly look for used soy sauce bottles, which Ms. Tele said they use to fill with organic coconut oil. 

“The glass bottles are cleaned and filled with organic coconut oil which they sell for $5.00 at the markets. But the majority of scavengers collect products made of aluminium to sell for money,” she said. 

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