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Who Are The Waste Reclaimers/Pickers?
Individuals from various backgrounds trying to make an honest living in order to feed, clothe and school their families.
These individuals travel very far per foot each day to collect and recycle waste – their full carts can weigh up to 200kg or more.
Their work is hard, tedious and dangerous. Pulling a large, heavy trolley along a road increases their risks of getting hit by cars.
What Do Waste Reclaimers Collect?
Waste pickers collect that which they are able to sell at buy-back centres, for example clear PET bottles, plastic milk containers, Kreepy Krawly pipes, plastic plant pots, large yoghurt containers, aluminium cold drink tins, aluminium pie plates, electronic waste, cardboard and paper.
Are Waste Pickers Beggars Or Criminals?
Most waste reclaimers are good people with families doing their best to make an honest living. They are generally not beggars and are prepared to work very hard for long hours (day and night) for very modest returns.
Most reclaimers work a number of different suburbs, going through rubbish trash bins on the night prior to, and on the day of, garbage collections. Most live in very modest accommodation outside of our suburbs.
When their carts are full, they may sometimes lie down in a park for an hour or two of sleep next to their carts rather than go home because most buy-back centres only function during business hours, and abandoning their precious trolleys and cargo would likely result in its theft.
What Value Do Waste Reclaimers Add?
Informal waste reclaimers extract discarded items that would normally end up in landfills and the environment, and sell these to buy-back centres for recycling.
Their work saves municipalities R780 million in landfill airspace alone – and that saving does not include the savings in waste removal trucking and fuel.
Due to their efforts in the recycling industry, South Africa is now on par in the recycling arena with European countries – 80 to 90 % of all material recycled in South Africa is entirely due to the efforts of these green champions.
What Do Waste Reclaimers Not Collect?
Waste reclaimers will not collect items which the buy-back centers will not pay for, for example; bottle tops (they are recyclable, but buy-back centers aren’t currently paying for them), transparent fruit containers (they are recyclable, but buy-back centers aren’t currently paying for them), green & brown PET bottles (for example Appletiser/Grapetiser/Mountain Dew and Stoney Ginger Beer bottles), polystyrene foam packaging.
How Can Residents Assist Waste Reclaimers?
- Place that which has value to waste reclaimers in boxes or clear packets on the pavements on collection day
- Rinse soiled containers so they are clean for collection
- Remove bottle tops and labels as reclaimers cannot re-sell these
- Be mindful to reclaimers on the road while driving
- Encourage other reclaimers to join ARO
- Get to know your local reclaimers and learn how you can help them