Frequently Asked Questions

Everything you need to know.

Common  Questions

Why are we called the African Reclaimers Organisation?

ARO is inclusive of anyone who considers themselves an African who participates in the work that we do. A lot of our members are foreign nationals, some who have papers and some who may not. People do the work that they do regardless of their immigration status. We believe in solidarity and we are against xenophobia and all forms of discrimination on the basis of nationality.

What would recognition look like from society, industry? Or how would reclaimers feel they have really been recognised?

We are workers and we might look dirty because we are actually cleaning up after the rest of society. We want recognition that what we are doing is nothing but work and should be recognised as such. Recognition from industry means paying fair prices for the materials that we reclaim, paying for the currently unpaid labour of sorting and transporting materials. It means giving us the kind of infrastructure that will add more dignity and more efficiency to our work, allowing us more time with our families. At the moment we work up to 10 hours a day. With infrastructure such as transport, we would be able to cut down the amount of hours that we work in half. Ultimately, recognition means giving us the dignity that we deserve.

Does ARO have a specific demand on pay? And from who?

We expect both industry and the government to pay reclaimers for the material they collect and for their services in cleaning the environment. Industries, as they are the owners of materials that end up in landfill sites and these are the materials that we collect. Government, because we are also contributing a tremendous amount of labour in cleaning the environment. We know that on a daily basis the estimated 15 000 reclaimers in Johannesburg collect up to 80 kilos of recyclables, up to 6 days a week. That is hundreds of metric tonnes of material that would normally go into landfill sites that reclaimers take out of landfills and put back into the productive economy!

Who would reclaimers be registered by/with and for what purpose?

We believe that reclaimers must be recognised through industries with the cooperation of the government. We know that reclaimers save up to R750 million per annum in landfill space. There are also other important contributions that we make to society that are yet to be fully researched and quantified. Registration will allow for communities to know exactly who is doing such important, environmental work in their neighbourhoods and quantify the exact contribution that reclaimers make to society.

How is ARO funded? And how would you like ARO to be funded in future?

ARO is currently not funded. All of our activities are based on whatever reclaimers are able to raise and what residents are able to donate. The most important part of our organization is the human beings that keep ARO running. Funding will allow us to pay stipends to our organizers who work with residents, businesses and reclaimers all over Johannesburg. We are hoping to raise funding for infrastructure that will help us like trucks and storage areas..We also hope to one day build a reclamation and innovation centre which will host our school programmes, as well and provide a space for researchers who are looking at alternative uses for plastic. Regular donations to ARO through our website go a long way towards helping us achieve these goals.

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

Want To Volunteer?

+27 (0)60 321 5800

Want To Become a Sponsor?

+27 (0)60 321 5800

Want To Make a Donation?

Your donation allows us to purchase much needed gear for our growing number of members.

Get in Touch. Get Involved.

City of Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa

+27 (0)60 321 5800

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