South African Waste Pickers Win International Award

Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - Fifteen tons of plastic and paper. Ten tons of glass. This is how much ten waste pickers collect every month from the Mooi River waste dump for recycling, earning them a collective of R10 000 per month.

The group, for the past five years, have made this a full-time job and now earn their living from recycling other people’s garbage. The group of formerly unemployed people have formed a cooperative and today are known as Mooi River Waste Reclaiming.

Today (Wednesday) their efforts will be rewarded when they receive the SEED [1] Award for their innovative work.  This award is given to local people and organisations globally who are developing livelihood strategies through programmes of environmental sustainability.


from left: Douglas Maphumulo (Leader of Waste Pickers at New England Road landfill site), Judith Slater (British Deputy High Commissioner to South Africa), Sbusiso Dladla (Mooi River Waste Recycling Project), Musa Chamane (groundWork, Friends of the Earth South Africa), Simon Mbata (South African Waste Pickers Association)

Sbusiso Dladla, who will receive the award on behalf of the collective is a young father, who has been working on the landfill site for 5 years.  Dladla had worked in the hotel industry before giving it up for waste picking so that he could work on his own terms instead of in an exploitative formal environment. 

groundWork, Friends of the Earth South Africa [2], has supported the waste pickers [3] in their endeavours.  In a first in South Africa, the Mpofane Municipality granted the waste pickers the right to salvage waste from the local landfill site.  This builds upon the commitments made in the National Environmental Management: Waste Act 59 of 2008, where groundWork successfully lobbied for recognition in the Act for people who earn a living from waste picking. [4]


For more information contact:

Sbusiso Dladla, Mooi River Waste Reclaiming
079 684 3114

Bobby Peek, Director, groundWork
082 464 1383

Musa Chamane, Waste Campaign Manager, groundWork
082 589 7928


[1] The SEED Awards for Entrepreneurship in Sustainable Development is an annual awards scheme designed to find the most promising, innovative and locally led start-up social and environmental entrepreneurs in countries with developing and emerging economies. An international jury of experts selects enterprises which have the potential to make real improvements in poverty eradication and environmental sustainability while contributing to a greener economy. See

[2] groundWork is a environmental justice organisation working with community people from around South Africa and increasingly in Southern Africa on environmental justice and human rights issues focusing on Air Pollution, Waste and Environmental Health. groundWork is a member of Friends of the Earth International.