Leveraging their relative strengths, the formal and informal waste management sectors will be able to further reduce plastic waste entering the environment. From their knowledge and experience on the streets, reclaimers are quick to recognise what can be recycled, a useful skill as the city moves towards circularity.
As part of a nine-month collaboration with the Alliance, reclaimers have been collecting plastic waste in Mayflower in Mpumalanga Province and parts of Johannesburg city, compacting them for easy transport, and loading them onto vehicles. As a result, 4,000 people have since gained access to new or improved waste management services.
Where plastic waste was once brought to a makeshift base of operations under a highway overpass, it is now transported to a new sorting centre, which provides a safer workplace, as well as a space where larger quantities of waste can be sorted and aggregated for sale. Plastic waste is compacted on-site with mobile balers making it easier and more economical to transport.
Beyond ensuring better – and safer – livelihoods, the centre’s sorting capability also proves that the informal sector is a reliable workforce and effective partner for waste management. This is reinforced through training and continuous improvement programmes that are provided at the site.
As of February 2023, the project had diverted close to 600 tonnes of plastic waste from entering the environment or ending in landfills. This is on top of tonnage diverted by ARO in collaboration with other organisations.
This creates a model that can be scaled city-wide and potentially country-wide, starting first with recognising reclaimers as a vital part of South Africa’s waste management ecosystem.