‘Joburg’s new waste programme threatens reclaimers’ work

A waste picker in Randburg.

Informal waste reclaimers have recently entered the spotlight after applying to march against Pikitup with the aim of motivating private companies to separate waste before taking it to landfill sites.

This is essentially the same job recyclers across the City have been doing for years.

Wiego, the Women in Informal Employment: Globalising and Organising, is a global network which works with reclaimers in Johannesburg to support their organising efforts.

They have recently released a statement about their concerns (edited):

On 1 July, contracts signed by Pikitup with private recycling companies will come into effect, threatening the livelihoods of hundreds of informal street reclaimers.

For generations, collecting recyclable and reusable materials has been a small but important source of income for thousands of South Africans. By giving recycling contracts to private companies, the City is intentionally opting for a private system, when a less costly, more socially responsible and environmentally-friendly solid waste management programme that includes reclaimers is possible. This arrangement will create additional hardship for up to 10 000 reclaimers in an economy that has reached an unemployment rate of 27.7 per cent.

Johannesburg street and landfill waste pickers have been meeting regularly over the past few months and in the course of these meetings, have formulated the following demands:

  • They want the right to work recognised
  • Suspend the planned implementation of separation at source contracts with private companies (in middle and high income areas serviced by Pikitup’s Randburg, Roodepoort, Midrand, Selby, Norwood and Avalon depot areas) until they have been thoroughly consulted and the programme has been redesigned to ensure that they will be included and the resulting implementation will not lead to loss of their livelihoods
  • Their inclusion must be central to the design and implementation of any separation at source programme – otherwise separation at source will continue to result in job loss instead of job creation
  • Their inclusion must be prioritised in community upliftment programmes concerning solid waste management
  • They should be compensated for service provision, their contribution to the economy and their contribution to the environment
  • Publicly-owned facilities should be supplied that allow them the infrastructure needed to work more effectively (for example, scales, bailing machines, vehicles to use for collection)
  • Sorting and safe storage facilities should be provided close to reclaimers’ collection routes.


Read the original statement here

ALSO READ: Waste pickers plan to strike 

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Chantelle Fourie

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