Reclaimers often lose out when having to hire a truck to get their collections to the depot, the cost is very high, but thankfully, the donation of a new truck changes everything!
Johannesburg, South Africa (15 October 2020) – As part of African Reclaimers Organisation’s (ARO) mandate to integrate reclaimers into the waste management system, the organisation received a four-ton truck, donated by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and the Japanese government on Tuesday, 13 October.
With funding from the government of Japan – UNIDO, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), and the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) has developed a collaborative project which aims to support South Africa’s transition from single-use plastic to environmentally friendly alternatives.
A key component of the project and the transition to environmentally friendly alternatives as a whole is building the recycling economy through training and capacity building to support the integration of reclaimers.
Dr Melanie Samson from Wits University is leading this reclaimer integration component of the project.
Samson said the government of Japan and UNIDO recognised that because reclaimers play an important role in the plastics value chain, it is necessary to ensure that they are included in the shift to alternatives.
The project will give life to the Waste Picker Integration Guideline for South Africa, which is currently in its implementation phase. Agreed by all stakeholders, the guidelines explain integration and provide guidance to municipalities and industry on how to work with reclaimers to achieve it.
“The project’s approach of strengthening reclaimers’ current role as a necessary component of forging something new is important and should serve as a guide for the development of extended producer responsibility (EPR), which runs the risk of marginalising and dispossessing reclaimers,” said Samson.
The donation of the truck was in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, which devastated reclaimers. Reclaimers were not able to work during the hard lockdown, and their incomes remain low. They are also at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 when they do work.
Samson said UNIDO reallocated its own funds to respond to needs identified by reclaimer organisations in the context of the crisis. The donation of the truck strengthens ARO’s ongoing work to provide reclaimers with food parcels and training on how to protect themselves from COVID-19 and strengthens their programmes to work directly with residents to integrate themselves.
The organiser of ARO, Eli Kodisang, said the truck plays an important role in integration because it improves the operations of reclaimers and ensures that elderly or disabled reclaimers who are not able to pull heavy trolleys can still make a living.
“In Soweto, with elderly reclaimers, they were paying from 80 to 90% of their earnings on transport for their materials. If we bring in the truck, it ensures that 100% of their earnings goes to feeding themselves and their families,” said Kodisang.
He said the truck also opens doors for ARO to partner with various neighbourhoods through a collection service that ARO plans to provide.
“This is a service that allows reclaimers to go through the bags and once that is done, ARO comes in and collects the bags that remain with material that people are unable to sell or unable to carry and also at the same time, clean the streets,” he said.
Paula Vilakazi, a reclaimer, and member of ARO, said reclaimers have been struggling with transportation, especially when they have needed to distribute food and materials during the Covid-19 lockdown.
“We always have to borrow or hire the truck and we will be charged a lot of money…but now at least we have a truck of our own which helps a lot. It also shows that our organisation is growing and we are getting somewhere,” said Vilakazi.