An electronic food voucher initiative is being rolled out to waste pickers across the country, as part of a partnership between the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) and the packaging industry, to assist waste pickers who have lost their livelihoods during the national lockdown period.
With the collection of recyclables not included as an essential service, the consequence of this has been that waste pickers have been unable to work during the lockdown period. Consequently, hundreds of waste pickers are facing extreme hardship.
Waste pickers and reclaimers play a key role in the recycling sector in South Africa. The initiative, aimed at reaching waste reclaimers countrywide, is designed to alleviate the distress many reclaimers face during the national lockdown.
On April 8, Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Barbara Creecy and Coca-Cola Beverages SA MD Velaphi Ratshefola led the distribution of food parcels to waste pickers in Gauteng. More than 2 000 food parcels were distributed to registered waste pickers in the province.
On April 9, Deputy Minister Makhotso Sotyu handed over 250 food vouchers to waste reclaimers in Sasolburg, which is in addition to 1 000 vouchers having been paid to individual reclaimers' cellphones across the country.
By mid-April, 3 925 reclaimers will receive vouchers that can be used at specified retailers.
Paper industry producer responsibility organisation Fibre Circle also delivered 300 food parcels to collectors in Ekurhuleni ahead of the Easter weekend.
Organisations representing recyclers have been working with their members to develop a comprehensive list of beneficiaries to assist the relief effort. The voucher system is being used to ease the logistics of having to distribute food parcels to all provinces.
The partnership follows discussions between the DEFF, Packaging South Africa, Polyco, Petco, The Glass Recycling Company, Mpact Recycling, the Paper Manufacturing Association and the two organisations representing waste reclaimers – the African Reclaimers Organisation and the South African Waste Pickers Association.
Following the discussions, the industry role-players immediately donated R785 000 to the relief effort.