South Africa has close to 200 000 informal waste collectors. We are all familiar with them, and their trolleys piled sky-high with plastic bottles and other recyclables. These waste collectors play a substantial role in South Africa’s waste management system.
As part of the informal sector, these waste collectors or reclaimers help to recover recyclable products from household waste streams as well as waste materials sent to landfills. The then transport these products to recyclers who pay them for the materials and the amount brought in.
Looking for recyclable products and materials, therefore, has become a full-time job for these reclaimers and their only way to provide for their families.
These waste collectors are responsible for bringing in 80 to 90% of plastic and packaging in South Africa. This, therefore, saves authorities up to R750 million in landfill costs.
Therefore these waste reclaimers are vital to recyclers around the country, as they are recyclers’ main source of recyclable materials.
However, due to the lockdown, these reclaimers have been forced to stop working, leaving them without an income. Despite this financially though time, many organisations, many organisations within the plastic industry have rallied together to raise R785 000 for waste collectors. This money is set to go towards purchasing electronic food vouchers, which will be sent to the collectors who are on the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries database, and can be redeemed in major supermarket retailers.
This is an extremely important initiative because, in order for this symbiotic relationship to continue, it needs to be protected during these times of uncertainty.
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