GUIDE: How to support local waste reclaimers

For residents of middle class and affluent urban areas

For local municipalities

  • STEP 1: Promote job creation in the waste management sector by developing inclusive and sustainable recycling value chains, and focusing on opportunities for the most vulnerable and marginalised communities in your area.
  • STEP 2: Empower waste reclaimers to turn plastic into a profitable business. Potential users of waste material are often not aware of potential suppliers. Create a system where potential buyers can source available materials.

For activists and social entrepreneurs

For national government

Key message: Our first focus must be on moving towards a circular, reduced-waste economy

What would this society look like? These are some suggestions from the Zero Waste Association of South Africa:

  • People’s food sovereignty is reclaimed. Instead, we grow toxic-free, healthy food to feed families and not just to profit. We minimise food waste by redistributing surplus food before it loses its nutritional qualities.
  • Durable, reusable products are favoured over disposable ones.
  • Recyclables are managed locally. And where waste-worker groups or cooperatives exist, they are involved in the whole waste management system.
  • Grassroots waste workers and waste reclaimers are recognised, protected and remunerated.
  • Waste exports no longer perpetuate colonialism, injustice and inequity.
  • Waste incineration – in any form – is eliminated from waste management programmes.

Common challenges

Companies lack incentives to reduce waste

  • Government can drive legislation and incentives for companies to reduce waste.
  • Consumers can dis-invest from high waste-producing companies.
  • Social entrepreneurs in the waste economy can help channel corporate social responsibility investments towards a circular economy.

People don’t know how / what to separate at source

  • Government, civil society and individuals can drive awareness and education to support separation at source.

Waste reclaimers are under-supported, or worse, degraded

  • Government can support the integration and recognition of waste reclaimers into local waste management systems.
  • Civil society can raise awareness about the critical role of waste reclaimers in diverting inorganic waste from landfills.
  • Individuals can support waste reclaimers in their neighbourhood by separating and washing recyclable waste at source and supporting waste reclaimer cooperatives.

Illegal dumping attracts more illegal dumping

  • Government, civil society and individuals can drive awareness and education to support separation at source.
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