Waste makeshift recycling trolley
Photo Credit: On File

Recycling isn’t classed as an essential service, so informal recyclers are stuck; they rely on the income from waste picking but 240 waste pickers just got food vouchers to get them through.


Sasolburg, South Africa (17 April 2020) – The COVID-19 lockdown plight of reclaimers in Sasolburg’s Vaalpark has been eased recently thanks to the donation of food vouchers by national PET plastic recycling body PETCO and the South African Waste Pickers Association to 240 families. 

The recipients of the vouchers belong to the Ikageng Ditamating Co-operative who prior to the lockdown worked at the Vaalpark landfill site, collecting recyclables from Vaalpark households. They were responsible for sorting recyclable materials, baling them, then selling them to recyclers who reprocess the recyclate. 

“Due to the Covid-19 lockdown and the exclusion of recycling as an essential service for health and safety reasons, these co-operative members and many other reclaimers in the vicinity are experiencing extreme hardship with no source of income,” said PETCO CEO Cheri Scholtz.

The co-operative had also been instrumental in assisting fellow reclaimers in forming and registering their own co-operatives, and working with them to sort recyclate at the Vaalpark landfill, said Scholtz. 

“This donation [made on April 9] is one of many that industry is co-ordinating under the umbrella of Packaging South Africa and the Department of Environmental Affairs,” she said. 

The Vaalpark separation at source recycling project – which sees recyclable materials collected from households around the Vaalpark residential area – was officially launched in 2014 with co-ordination and involvement from many players in the paper and packaging industry and local government, as well as the South African Waste Pickers Association (SAWPA). This followed three years of planning, preparation and resource mobilisation, Scholtz said. 

“PETCO has been instrumental in supporting the project by training the co-operative members and providing equipment, including a baler and ten bakkie cages which have been placed at different locations such as shopping centres and schools. 

“The cages are picked up with the bakkie once they are full and they are offloaded at the operational site. They have built strong relationships with the households and have an estimated 2,800 households who voluntary participate in their recycling programme by either putting their bins out on designated days or dropping recyclables as well as white goods – which they repair and sell off or sponsor to poor people in the community – at the recycling site.”

SAWPA chairman, Simon Mbatha, said the donations would help alleviate some of the hardships being experienced by reclaimers. 

“I believe working together we can all find a solution for a waste management system in the country that will alleviate poverty for all the people who work in the waste value chain,” said Mbatha.

Deputy Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Maggie Sotyu (left), oversees the distribution of food vouchers to Vaalpark residents recently. (Image: Supplied)

Sources: Press Release
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Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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