Waste pickers collect up to 90% of recyclables saving municipalities millions
In the process, they saved municipalities up to R750 million in landfill space annually.
This emerged during a workshop hosted by the Department of Environment yesterday, aimed at giving an insight into their work and contribution in the waste management sector.
The event was attended by various government departments, waste-picker organisations, municipal officials and NGOs.
During the workshop, a research project, lessons from waste picker integration initiatives, conducted by the University of the Witwatersrand was also presented.
The project is developing national guidelines for waste picker integration and was funded by the Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Environmental Affairs.
One of the people who headed the project, Melanie Samson, gave a breakdown of the draft national guidelines on waste pickers’ integration developed by key stakeholders in the sector.
Part of the guidelines reiterated compensation for waste pickers’ services, and working on access to resources such as getting them tricycles with baskets instead of pushing trolleys.
Samson said it was important to develop a common understanding with waste pickers. They had been the missing link which removed recyclables from the waste stream and supplied them to the recycling industry.
She advised whoever wished to partner with waste pickers to do so in a meaningful way.
“Before you approach them, get your act together, make sure you understand something about their issues, partner with waste pickers in a meaningful way, then plan together, create an enabling environment and finally make sure you institutionalise.”
Dr Suzell Timm of Wits University said many of the pickers were not South Africans, which excluded them from being registered.
In addition, there were usually no dedicated funding for waste pickers in municipalities.
“Some of them have a reciprocal relationship, which means some residents would put waste aside like plastics and papers and give to waste pickers. Other residents don’t necessarily pay attention to reclaimers, and some have a hostile attitude to reclaimers,” Timm said.