The work usually starts around 04; 00 am to 05; 00 am depending on the weather and or season, its completely silent, with a few dogs bagging in the distance as they pull their hand made trollies with squeaky wheels that turn to every direction, from waste bin to waste bin they search, search for value that was thrown away by you and me, amount found in Kudoti - in the trash!
This article is about the informal waste collectors, the real recyclers in our countries, those who do it with or without choice, those promoting sustainable living without knowing it.
If you drive around Johannesburg South Africa, you have probably have hooted at them before, if you use public transport, you might have seen them more than once, and if you don’t stay in Johannesburg, you might have read about them. Its very easy to confuse them with criminals in most cases, okay fine, they do take waste from households without anyone’s permission, they disrupt the business model for many formal recycling companies as they collect recyclable waste leaving contaminated or non recyclable waste and yes most of them don’t even have the right legal documentation but before we penalize them, here are the results of their work:
Early 2018, the South African Statistics showed that only 10% of the total waste produced in South Africa is recycled, the rest goes to landfills. Interestingly earlier this year in a workshop hosted by Department of Environmental Affairs in partnership with the Department of Science and Technology it was showed that Informal recyclers Today there are more than 200 000 estimated informal waste pickers who journey South Africa collect about 80 – 90% of post-consumer packaging and paper recycled in South Africa which save municipalities up to R750 million in landfill airspace each year. This collection rate exceeds most of the waste pickup rate done by much formal organization with adequate resources. m
Today there are more than 200 000 estimated informal waste pickers who journey South Africa’s most significant and wealthiest city, and I firmly believe we must understand that most if not all of the waste pickers do not love what they do, they do it because it puts bread on the table. For many South Africans, these are desperate times, 46% of South Africans bring home less than R1 000 a month while the bottom 10% of South Africans have to live off R345 a month. Having spoken to more than 30 of these hustlers, I came to realize that one of the principal motivation for them is the R85 to R100 they make per day depending on full they cart is. They bring home about R2550 to R3000 which given the current climate is quite sufficient if you are willing to walk 20km per, wake up at 5:00 am latest sleep at 22:00 soonest and risk your health or safety daily.
So why should you care? Well, you should care now more than ever because we are currently facing a world trash crisis. Not so long ago, one of the world’s biggest waste recycling country: China, banned the import of waste from developed nations such as the USA. This substantial predicament because china was taking 56% of the world’s plastic garbage to recycle. Moreover, the Philippine have stopped taking waste from Canada, which exported 103 shipping containers of trash to the Philippines in batches from 2013 to 2014. Sending back waste to these countries would mean they would have to come up with innovative, sustainable, and quick solutions to deal with this or they have to look for a new place to ship the waste. My guess is Africa.
Unfortunately, according to the State of solid waste management in Africa, the average MSW recycling rate in Africa is estimated at only 4 percent. With our continent struggling to manage the waste of its own, how are we going to deal with International rubbish?
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