South Africa: Tshwane Waste Pickers Gearing Up to Work With the City

Workers sort garbage at Nduba dump site in Gasabo District.
press release

Since 2010 five landfill sites have been closed in the Tshwane area leading to the displacement of more than 500 waste pickers, who depend on waste recovery as bread and butter for themselves and their families. SAWPA [1] and groundWork [2], South African Local Government Association (SALGA) [3], Women in Informal Employment and Global Organising (WIEGO) [4] have been calling for negotiations with the city since 2007.

SAWPA's footprint spreads over all 9 provinces in South Africa. According to the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research there are up to 90 000 people that earn a livelihood through the informal waste sector. SAWPA is based on waste dump sites and in cities across the country, with all its members involved in collecting and selling waste as a livelihood strategy. Waste pickers divert and recycle materials such as plastic, cardboard, paper, metals away from waste dumps, where waste resulted in increased greenhouse gas emissions and worsening impacts of climate change.

The City of Tshwane has long known about the struggle of waste pickers and their existence as a formal organisation. There have been activities that the waste pickers have participated in the city. In 2013 they successfully lead a protest against Enviroserve proposed incinerator. The city has now realised that working with waste pickers has effective benefits on waste management, including saving space at the landfill and keeping the city clean.

Last year the Waste Pickers Integration in South Africa guidelines were finalized and adopted to assist municipalities on the integration of waste pickers into local waste management systems. This document is yet to be implemented at a local level by municipalities. Waste pickers contribute to local economies, public health and safety, and environmental sustainability.


[1] SAWPA's goal is to improve livelihoods, recycling, recognition of waste pickers, promote the rights of waste pickers, promote the Waste Picker Law, organizing at local and national level, reduce vulnerability and risk, develop and promote MBOs, against privatization, strengthen unity and cohesion among waste pickers.

[2] groundWork is a non-profit environmental justice organisation working primarily in Southern Africa in the areas of Climate & Energy Justice, Coal, Environmental Health, Global Green and Healthy Hospitals, and Waste. groundWork is the South African member of Health Care Without Harm and Friends of the Earth International. @groundWorkSA

[3] WIEGO is a global network focused on securing livelihoods for the working poor, especially women, in the informal economy.

[4] SALGA is an autonomous association of all 257 South African local governments. SALGA has set out its role to represent, promote and protect the interests of local governments and to raise the profile of local government.


Simon Mbata

SAWPA National Coordinator

+27 66 219 1232

Musa Chamane

groundWork, Friends of the Earth SA Waste Campaigner

+27 82 380 2237

Tsepang Molefe

groundWork, Friends of the Earth SA Media Campaigner

+27 74 405 1257

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