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Integrate informal waste pickers into the mainstream economy


Lebogang Maile MPL is the Gauteng Member of the Executive Council for Human Settlements, Urban Planning, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. He was elected as Vice-President of the Forum of Regions of Africa (Foraf) at its inaugural sitting in Saidia, Morocco.  

The waste sector has the potential to contribute meaningfully towards GDP and economic growth and we are exploring new, innovative ways of building its capacity and creating opportunities for new entrants.

For many developing countries informal waste pickers, especially through co-operatives and SMMEs contribute significantly to waste management and efficient resource management by collecting, sorting, trading and processing waste materials. Within the waste management economy in South Africa, approximately 60,000-90,000 waste pickers save municipalities roughly R750-million every year by diverting recyclables away from landfills at little to no cost.

In Gauteng, as part of the evolution of our Bontle ke Botho campaign, which is geared towards mobilising communities to work with government and other stakeholders to contribute to the cleaning and greening of our environment, we have identified the waste economy as one with enormous potential to create employment and generate entrepreneurial opportunities for thousands of unemployed people in our communities. This all forms part of our plan to ensure that all development corridors within Gauteng grow in a manner that is environmentally sustainable and promotes the creation of liveable cities.

One of our exciting initiatives to take advantage of the opportunities within the waste sector is the Waste Recycler’s Project, which is geared towards integrating informal recyclers through cooperatives into the mainstream waste economy, providing an income earning opportunity for large numbers of poor people within our communities and pursuing alternatives for land filling through encouraging recycling and re-use. The project will also help save municipalities money by reducing the volume of waste that needs to be collected, transported and disposed of through the promotion of recovery and reprocessing of recyclables.

A 12-month pilot of this project will be launched in Tembisa on September 2 2017 wherein we will be handing out 200 branded motorised three-wheeler vehicles to local waste cooperatives, with the immediate impact of employing 200 drivers and 200 assistants to operate these motorised three wheelers. Apart from that, we will be providing receptacles to 2,000 households for sorting at source and offering capacity building and skills transfer to these informal waste recyclers, so that we can improve their potential to earn a sustainable income as well as capture a larger portion of the waste economy value chain, which is, like most South African industries, dominated by a few large firms across the entire value chain.

This is a project that we are looking to roll out in all five development corridors that make up Gauteng City Region and we are excited at the opportunities it offers to: create new jobs in an emerging secondary resources economy; create job opportunities for low-skilled, unemployed citizens, establish new enterprises as there are low barriers to entry and stimulate a local green economy. It will also help to ensure the effective and efficient delivery of waste services within our communities, grow the contribution of the waste economy to the green economy and increase community awareness of the impact of waste on their health, well-being and the environment.

Some of the other benefits that we will derive as a province, from the roll-out of such a ground-breaking project are that we will be able to improve waste management within the province, divert waste away from landfill and thereby extend the limited available airspace as well as contribute towards our core programme of township economy revitalisation.

The project is also in line with the Department of Trade and Industry’s commitment to promote cooperatives as a means to, “create and develop income-generating activities and decent, sustainable employment; reduce poverty, develop human resource capacities and knowledge; strengthen competitiveness and sustainability, increase savings and investment; improve social and economic well-being; and contribute to sustainable human development”.

We believe that the waste sector has potential to contribute meaningfully towards GDP and economic growth and are exploring new, innovative ways of building its capacity and creating opportunities for new entrants. It is for this reason that we will continue to invest in infrastructure to support waste cooperatives and SMMEs within communities, continue to encourage and support investment in alternate technologies which have the potential to boost the sector and look to develop more private/public partnerships that can build and transform the waste management sector to the point that it makes a significant contribution to job creation, poverty alleviation and a more environmentally sustainable Gauteng City Region.

We want communities to realise that waste is money and there is indeed great value in promoting recycling and greening initiatives. Our communities have a significant role to play in ensuring that we achieve our objective of a clean, healthy, humane environment and in doing so they can position themselves to take advantage of new economic opportunities that are offered by the waste economy sector. In the words of former President Nelson Mandela, “it is in your hands to make of our world a better one for all”. DM

Lebogang Maile is Gauteng MEC for Economic Development, Environment, Agriculture and Rural Development


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