informal recycler

James Hefer was hailed a hero for his efforts in helping an informal recycler push his heavy trolley up a hill; his actions have inspired so much more.


Craighall Park, JohannesburgJames Hefer has shone a light on the plight of informal recyclers. He inspired thousands of South Africans when he made his mother stop her car so he could help one of these hardworking men push his trolley up a hill.

These hardworking men and women work tirelessly to collect recyclables from our bins every day. Selling the recyclables to buy-back centres, their income never matches the effort and time that goes into collecting the recyclables, but it is an honest living.

Statistics show that informal recyclers collect 80% to 90% of post-consumer packaging and paper recycled in South Africa. They save municipalities up to R750 million in landfill space each year and yet, face many challenges due to lack of support from Government.

More and more South Africans are taking up the fight on behalf of informal recyclers. They are separating recyclables to save the informal recyclers time, equipping them with tools to do the job effectively and being more accepting and understanding of the challenges faced.

James was selected as the Good Things Guy SPAR hero of the week last week. A great honour and with it comes a voucher from SPAR for the hero to spend as they wish. James decided to trade it with his mom, asking her for the cash value so he could instead give it to the recyclers he meets. His compassion and kindness continue to inspire those around him.

After sharing his story last week, it was picked up by several news media outlets, and now his story has reached millions of people in the process.

James’ good deed left many asking how they too can make a difference for informal recyclers. Well, we have a few tips that will make all the difference.

  • Separate and clean your recyclables, place them in clear bags and leave them on top of your bin.
  • If you have shoes, jackets, gloves and so on, add them to the bags as well. These men and women leave home hours before anyone else wakes, meaning they face cold, harsh weather. As they are walking all day long, a new pair of shoes makes all the difference.
  • Be patient when driving near them; they are doing all they can to get home as quickly and safely as possible.
  • Or be more like James and offer a helping hand.

Thank you for inspiring us all, James!

Sources: Good Things Guy Interview
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Tyler Leigh Vivier
About the Author

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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