Residents Action Group (RAG) Bedfordview is encouraging residents to recycle and to work with informal reclaimers or waste pickers as one of the focus areas of ‘Better Bedfordview’ initiative.
RAG chairperson, Marina Constas, said residents should start with pre-sorting plastics and paper for the local recyclers. ‘It is so distressing to see them having to rifle around in dustbins. There is no dignity in that. I want to urge all residents to ensure that they do not have to do this.’
To this end, she recommended that residents in streets and complexes in which the waste pickers are active, place their recycling in clear plastic bags next to their bins. She says that as a starting point, residents should separate clear, hard plastic and clean paper for the recyclers. ‘Fold paper and flatten cardboard, and do not include anything with grease, animal fat or cooked cheese on it, like old pizza boxes, food or meat containers. Rinse and crush beverage packaging like clear plastic juice bottles and aluminium cans, to prevent pests.’
Constas notes that South Africa’s informal reclaimers are sometimes mistreated, often overlooked, and largely misunderstood, but she stresses that they play an important role in our economy. ‘Waste pickers contribute to local economies, to public health and safety, and to environmental sustainability. Waste picking provides crucial income for people and households. There are an estimated 100,000 waste pickers in South Africa who recycle 90% of the recyclables collected from households in the country. This keeps waste from landfills, which is important as South Africa is fast approaching the situation of running out of landfill space.
‘Recycling is one of the cheapest, fastest ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing energy consumption. Using recycled materials to make new products reduces the need for virgin materials. This avoids greenhouse gas emissions that would result from extracting or mining virgin materials. In addition, manufacturing products from recycled materials typically requires less energy than making products from virgin materials.’
Constas said that RAG has plans to add impetus to its recycling drive by partnering with the African Reclaimers Organisation (ARO). ‘We are working to forge a partnership with ARO that will benefit the waste pickers and residents. We hope to soon be able to provide residents with the names of the reclaimers working in our area, as well as exactly what recyclables they are looking for, and when they collect from which streets.
‘These reclaimers are entrepreneurs, not criminals. They work extremely hard. They are up in the early hours of the morning, walk long distances and move heavy loads as they collect recyclables. If we can ensure that they do not have to spend time rummaging through general waste in dustbins, they can collect more and earn more, with dignity.
‘Residents working with the reclaimers have the benefit of supporting hardworking, enterprising people while caring for the environment. I am thankful to all the RAG members who share our vision of uniting and uplifting our area to provide a safe and clean environment for all. As a non-profit, community organisation, all of RAG’s profits go right back into our community, including to suburb improvement projects like Better Bedfordview,’ Constas concluded.