Waste Pickers Left for Dead at New England Landfill Site

Waste-pickers protest at landfill site

A 2015 waste picker protest, where waste pickers were challenging the delays in the building of the Materials Recovery Facility. They also challenged the dangerous work conditions.

11 May 2018 - Panic and chaos struck the New England Landfill site on Saturday, 5 May 2018, when waste pickers discovered the body of an unknown man they believed to have been dead. While trying to contact police, they realized that the man was still alive; they immediately tried to contact the ambulance instead. Several calls and pleas for help were made between 6:00 in the morning and by 12:00 midday, the ambulance still had not arrived and the police and made no effort to come to the scene to assist.

Upon realizing that there was no help on the way, waste pickers eventually contacted groundWork[1]. A groundWork staff member arrived on the scene, rushed the man to Edendale Hospital, and was accompanied by two waste pickers. This is not the first time the town has let down the waster pickers, earlier on this year, Ntshwati’s dead body was left on the site until after dark, when she was crushed by a truck earlier on that morning. Hazardous medical waste often makes its way into the landfill site. The likelihood of these and other incidences reoccuring will increase if Msunduzi Local Municipality continues to ignore the call for a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), which would allow for better recycling and a safer working environment for waste pickers.

groundWork and South African Waste Pickers Association (SAWPA) have been telling Msunduzi Local Municipality about the danger that they expose waste pickers to by delaying the building of a MRF. In 2010 MRF funding was approved at the district level, but the MRF was never built due to political clashes between the district and local municipality. In the meantime, waste pickers are left vulnerable and abandoned by structures that do not adequately respond and assist when there is a crisis at the landfill site.

Contact Details

Nombulelo Shange
Media and Communications Manager
Tel (m): +27 74 874 2177
Tel (w): +27 33 342 5662
Email: nombulelo@groundwork.org.za

Musa Chamane
Waste Campaigner
Tel (M): +27 82 380 2237
Tel (w): +27 33 342 5662


[1] "Groundwork South Africa." http://www.groundwork.org.za/. Accessed 9 May. 2018. groundWork is an environmental justice organization working with community people from around South Africa and increasingly in Southern Africa on environmental justice and human rights issue focusing on Air Quality, Climate Justice and Energy, Waste and Environmental Health. groundWork is the South African member of Friends of the Earth International.