Zero Waste (Recycling) Exchange for Government Officials

20 November 2018 - On the 21 and 22 November groundWork [1] and South African Waste Pickers Association (SAWPA) [2] are hosting a government officials zero waste exchange in Vaal triangle. Drankenstein, Matjhabeng, Big 5, Emfuleni, Metsimaholo local municipalities in collaboration with South African Local Government Association (SALGA) as well as Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) are convening to share ideas on how the Polokwane Declaration of 2000 as well as the Waste Act 2008 can be best implemented in different municipalities.

The exchange is the first of its kind, groundWork has sourced funding to make this municipal exchange a reality. groundWork has been working primarily with informal workers also known as waste pickers from various cities and towns in South Africa. As groundWork, we felt that the work has been done with waste pickers and now it is time to engage with municipalities; that is how the idea of this exchange came about.

South African Municipalities have been struggling to deal with waste issues, landfills are filling up quickly and are not being properly managed. Waste collection has also been a challenge. It became clear that waste recycling should be a way to go to overcome the current waste problem. If municipalities would have recycling targets and making sure that industries only use recyclable materials that means recycling will be possible. Imagine if everything was recyclable or had a market to reprocess the material that means there won't be a need for landfills. Communities will not suffer due to the ills as a result of landfills that are constantly in dire state and sometimes on fire.

If everything was recyclable the rubbish bins will be full of resources to be recovered by waste pickers thus making a living out of those resources. Government and industry have to create a conducive environment for recycling to happen. Materials Recovery Facilities should be a norm for every municipality. Separation at source of waste materials should be encouraged even if its starts at a small scale it is something. Once the materials are recyclable and are recycled there won't be anything left to go to landfills and that results to Zero Waste. Zero waste cannot be achieved in two years but it will take decades but it is possible. A Zero Waste city such as California is currently diverting more than 75% of waste away from the landfill through reduce, reuse, recycling and composting.

During the exchange we will showcase the Metsimaholo Local Municipality case study where waste pickers used to be based at the landfill, but now through the hard work done by waste pickers, the municipality and industry separation at source of about 3000 households has been realised. And recycling is happening and jobs have been created. The Metsimaholo local municipality was due for a new site 3 years ago but they have not gone ahead to acquire it because of positive impact of recycling which is taking place in that town. The project has come a long way and the officials will share the story with other officials on what has been done for the project to be where it is now. Emfuleni local municipality has a similar project but of a different model there is no separation at source but cooperative of waste pickers collects from businesses in Vereeniging. The municipality has offered them a storage space for their recyclables. While other municipalities have not done much, this will be their chance to see, ask and share their knowledge regarding waste recycling. The exchange will result in sharing of expertise and will culminate to meaningful recycling projects on the ground



[1] groundWork (gW) is a non-profit environmental justice and developmental organization working primarily in Southern Africa in the areas of Climate & Energy Justice, Coal, Environmental Health, Global Green and Healthy Hospitals, and Waste. groundWork is the South African member of Health Care Without Harm and Friends of the Earth International.

[2] South African Waste Pickers Association (SAWPA) is a national movement that was formed to strengthen unity and cohesion among waste pickers. SAWPA’s primary objectives are to improve livelihood, recycling, recognition of waste pickers, promote the rights of waste pickers.



Musa Chamane
Waste Campaigner
082 380 2237

Simon Mbata
South African Waste Pickers Association
National Coordinator
066 219 1232