COJ’s closure of waste picking site slammed as short-sighted

Informal waste collectors go about their business in Johannesburg. l MOTSHWARI MOFOKENG/THE STAR

Informal waste collectors go about their business in Johannesburg. l MOTSHWARI MOFOKENG/THE STAR

Published Mar 24, 2024


The “drastic step” taken by the City of Johannesburg (COJ) to suspend the activities of WastePreneurs and the WastePreneur Pirates sites has been labelled as a short-sighted move that could exacerbate the unwelcome scenes at many public facilities.

Non-profit organisations working within the sector said the recent decision by the municipality would ultimately risk pushing Waste Pickers to resort to sorting their waste in public spaces such as parks, and compounding existing waste challenges much to the dismay of many.

Steve Jourdan, chairman of Adopt-a-Project Foundation, said COJ had informed them that WastePreneurs activities were to be suspended from March 29, with informal traders warned not to utilise the area to sort out their haul.

The WastePreneurs NPO initiative was opened eight years ago at the Pirates Club in Greenside, as one of the Club’s Community Development Initiatives aimed at uplifting the informal waste collectors.

Through this, informal waste collectors were provided with an opportunity to develop into fully operational micro enterprises, while at the same time providing a much-needed separation at source recycling service.

This due to the fact that Pirates provided the land next to the PIKITUP site on a non-rental basis to waste collectors, with stakeholders asked to assist with some basic infrastructure such as trailers, trucks, scales, waste cages, trolleys as well as ablution facilities.

While Adreach agreed to support the programme alongside its vision of its Adopt-a-Project partnership with the City of Joburg, with an addendum signed to support and assist WastePreneurs to formalise their service throughout Johannesburg, the organisations said they were dismayed to learn the City had succumbed to pressure from local residents associations.

“The cities recent actions of succumbing to pressure from local residents associations and suspending activities at the WastePreneurs Pirates site on a technicality is short-sighted. (It) will only make the problem worse with waste pickers ultimately sorting their waste in parks and other open areas, as is happening in other areas like Sandton.

“It is sad that it’s got to this. Wastepreneurs is an internationally acclaimed initiative for its separation at source model and it is now effectively being pushed out by City officials, who actually have contractual obligations to support it, as a knee-jerk reaction to the problem of informal settlements.

“They should rather address the issue at hand and source low-cost accommodation, with the support of other stakeholders like businesses and resident’s associations. because there are positive and sustainable solutions that all stakeholders can benefit from,” said Brad Fisher, co-founder of Adreach and SDI.

For waste collector, Frans Malema, however, the reality of this decision has hit him hard, as he said he was already battling to support his family of eight.

Malema, who said he had been using the Pirates site since the initiative was started, said he was hoping the news of this suspension was nothing more than a rumour.

“I try to support my five kids and my aunt who helps me look after them, but it's very hard. I try, but I know that if they really close down that site, I will make even less to feed my family, because I just can’t afford to hire a truck to go and weigh my haul.

“Being able to access the site meant I could just use my trolley to get to the site, but how will I afford to hire a truck to get the stuff weighed? That means I will only get a chance to make money every two weeks,” he said.