Recycling has the potential to be a viable profitable business and assist in job creation if the necessary support is provided, states nonprofit waste management organisation the Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa (IWMSA).
“The Department of Trade and Industry has estimated that the South African recycling industry, operating at full capacity, could increase the number of direct employment opportunities to about 149 459 jobs. The crea- tion of these sustainable jobs would only be achieved if recycling has profitable supportive structures in place,” said IWMSA central branch chairperson Dr Suzan Oelofse.
She was speaking at an IWMSA workshop, with the theme ‘Is recycling viable?’, earlier this month, in Midrand.
City of Johannesburg waste policy and programmes deputy director Mvuselelo Mathebula said his department was currently working on a formal description for waste pickers to avoid the dehumanisation of this practise, for example, being called scavengers, besides other derogatory names.
“Currently, recycling does not provide attrac- tive profits but people who do it, do so to save the environment and are passionate about it. In a drive to formalise the sector, we have started to meet with waste pickers to [put in place] inter- ventions to assist them with better working conditions and support.
“The City of Johannesburg is targeting 4 000 green jobs by 2015 through maintaining and establishing buy-back centres and community recycling initiatives, and formalising waste pickers. A solid plan needs to be put in place to enforce a structured waste management programme,” he said.
However, Mathebula added that not all waste pickers are keen to be registered, as they want to retain their independence. The municipality only has about 687 registered waste pickers on its database and a pilot project is under way to provide them with protective clothing, such as gloves, glasses and overalls.
“The second phase of the pilot project is to provide them with sponsored trolleys, as they are particular about the kind of trolleys they want. We are on a massive drive to source trolleys,” he said.
The City of Johannesburg plans to issue waste pickers with identity cards and get them to form cooperatives. Another aim is to continue hosting knowledge-sharing meetings for the benefit of their growth and our communities, said Mathebula.
He noted a significant challenge for the municipality was a lack of financial support from private funders to implement all the necessary initiatives to benefit and formalise the sector.
Meanwhile, waste collection company Wasteplan MD Bertie Lourens said materials recycling facilities need to be explored in South Africa but, currently, they are expensive to operate, as the country is not on par with its global counterparts in this technology.
Multidisciplinary project management firm Worley Parsons waste and environmental manager Chris Liebenberg said there is a need for government to accelerate awareness of the potential value of recyclables to improve recycling profitability.
“This can be achieved through fostering public education and involvement, assisting in establishing outlets to receive reclaimed materials, besides other interventions,” added Liebenberg.