Apr 06, 2011

South African Waste Pickers Win International Award

by PhilLee — last modified Apr 06, 2011 02:23 PM
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Friends of the Earth South Africa / groundWork are celebrating the achievements of a group of waste pickers who've been recognised for their innovative recycling work. Their success is in part due to a law that groundWork saw repealed, allowing people to earn a living from waste picking.

south african waste pickers win seed awardFifteen tons of plastic and paper. Ten tons of glass. This is how much ten waste pickers collect every month from the Mooi River waste dump for recycling, earning them a collective of R10 000 per month (1000 euros).


The group, for the past five years, have made this a full-time job and now earn their living from recycling other people’s rubbish. The group of formerly unemployed people have formed a cooperative and today are known as Mooi River Waste Reclaiming.

In March 2011 their efforts were rewarded when they received the SEED Award for their innovative work. This award is given to local people and organisations globally who are developing livelihood strategies through programmes of environmental sustainability.

Sbusiso Dladla, who received the award on behalf of the collective is a young father, who has been working on the landfill site for 5 years. Dladla had worked in the hotel industry before giving it up for waste picking so that he could work on his own terms instead of in an exploitative formal environment.

groundWork, Friends of the Earth South Africa, has supported the waste pickers in their endeavours. In a first in South Africa, the Mpofane Municipality granted the waste pickers the right to salvage waste from the local landfill site. This builds upon the commitments made in the National Environmental Management: Waste Act 59 of 2008, where groundWork successfully lobbied for recognition in the Act for people who earn a living from waste picking.