Sometimes you don’t make enough money to buy food: An analysis of
South African street waste pickers income:, 2016. Economic Research Southern Africa Brief.
Authors: By JMM Viljoen, PF Blaauw and CJ Schenck
Local governments however, can play an important role in protecting and enhancing the income-earning opportunities of street waste pickers. Local governments should create an environment in which higher quantities of quality waste are made accessible to the street waste pickers.
One such initiative is the ‘separation of waste at source’ initiative. The benefits of a well-considered system of ‘separation at source’ will provide street waste pickers access to bigger volumes of semi-sorted waste, as well as higher quality waste which will enhance their income-earning opportunities.
Local governments should further facilitate infrastructure such as Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs), sorting facilities, and more efficient BBCs to assist street waste pickers to collect and sell higher volumes of waste. It is difficult for street waste pickers to sort and clean the waste properly without a place or space to sort the waste. Therefore, there is an urgent need for sorting and storage space to enable street waste pickers to sort the waste they have collected properly as better-sorted and higher quality waste reach higher prices.
More collection points along certain routes where BBCs collect the waste from the street waste pickers can reduce the distances over which the heavy loads of waste have to be carried amid traffic in dangerous conditions. Policy-makers should as a point of departure acknowledge that street waste pickers are among the most vulnerable groups of informal economy participants.
Most of the street waste pickers were pushed into these informal economy activities to try and make a living because they had no other choice. Although they experience high poverty levels, and are the lowest income earners in the recycling chain, these activities provide them with a livelihood. Policy-makers should therefore ensure that their incomegenerating opportunities are protected.