Lockdown relief secured for South African waste pickers
Photo Cred: Danone

This week 3 925 waste pickers will receive vouchers which they can reclaim at specified retailers.


South Africa (14 April 2020) – The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, in partnership with the packaging industry, has secured a plan to assist waste pickers countrywide who have lost their livelihoods during the national lockdown period.

“Working with industry and the waste reclaimers associations, we will be distributing electronic food vouchers to waste pickers’ cell phones over the coming days,” said Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Minister, Barbara Creecy.

The initiative which has a strong focus in reaching waste reclaimers in towns and cities across the country is aimed at alleviating distress many reclaimers face during the national lockdown, implemented to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Creecy said it is estimated that during the course of this week 3 925 reclaimers will receive vouchers which they can reclaim at specified retailers.

“A total of 1000 vouchers had been paid to individual reclaimers cell phones across the country by the close of business on Thursday, 9 April. The voucher system is being used to ease the logistics of having to distribute food parcels to all provinces,” Creecy said.

The partnership follows discussions between the department, Packaging SA, Polyco, PETCO, The Glass Recycling Company, Mpact Recycling, the Paper Manufacturing Association, and the two organisations representing waste reclaimers, the African Reclaimers Organisation and the South African Waste Pickers Association.

Following the discussions, the industry immediately donated R785 000 to the relief effort.

“It is heart-warming that the members of Packaging SA have come together with the department to assist waste pickers in these trying times,” said Executive Director of Packaging SA, Shabeer Jhetam.

The organisations representing recyclers have been working with their members to develop a comprehensive list of beneficiaries to assist the relief effort.

Creecy said with the collection of recyclables not included as an essential service, the consequence of this has been that waste pickers have been unable to work during the lockdown period.

Consequently, hundreds of waste pickers are currently experiencing situations of extreme hardship.

Waste pickers and reclaimers play a key role in the recycling sector in South Africa, Creecy said.

  • On 8 April 2020, Creecy and Managing Director of Coca-Cola Beverages SA (CCBSA), Velaphi Ratshefola, led the distribution of food parcels to waste pickers in Gauteng, where more than 2 000 food parcels were distributed to registered waste pickers in the province.
  • On 9 April 2020, Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Deputy Minister, Makhotso Sotyu handed over 250 food vouchers to the waste reclaimers in Sasolburg.
  • Fibre Circle, the producer responsibility organisation for the paper industry, have also delivered 300 food parcels to collectors in Ekurhuleni ahead of the Easter weekend.

Creecy thanked all those who have participated in the partnership to date, and also urged those who had not yet donated to join the drive.

“We are extremely grateful to all those who have opened their hearts to the distress of waste reclaimers. Because the need out there is so great, we urge others to join our partnership and donate generously,” the Minister said.

Sources: SA Government 
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