All she wanted for Christmas was a cake and chicken

25 December 2017 - 12:18 By Bafana Nzimande
Waste collectors at Marie Louise Landfill searching for recyclable material.
Waste collectors at Marie Louise Landfill searching for recyclable material.
Image: Bafana Nzimande

While millions across the world enjoy a decent meal with family and friends this Christmas, some are wondering where will they get their next meal as they fend through the dirt for survival.

Salamina Ndlovu is one of the less fortunate.

All she hoped to have this Christmas was a big cake and a roast chicken. 

The 52-year-old's dream won't materialize because she does not have the financial muscle to spoil herself as the year wraps up.

Ndlovu survives by collecting recyclable items at Pikitup's Marie Louise Landfill situated along Dobsonville Road in Roodepoort.

The mother of two daily searches through the waste for cans, plastic containers and cardboard. 

She makes approximately R1,000 per week. The money has to cover her rental in Braamfisher and a large portion goes back to her children in Zimbabwe.

"My husband passed away late 2016. I will spend my Christmas with my younger sister. We would have loved to cook a big meal like other families but we don't have enough money for food.

"This year has been very difficult for me but through the grace of God I believe things will get better," said Ndlovu. 

Ndlovu said she started collecting recyclable material from 2004. 

She is part of a large group that depends on Marie Louise for cash. The group carries large sacks and escorts refuse trucks as they drive in to dump all the rubbish collected from nearby households and businesses.

"It's not easy collecting items at Marie Louise. The place poses a health risk but we come here everyday because we want the little money we can get to support our families," said Thabo Tau from Meadowlands who also collects recyclable items at Marie Louise Landfill.

A majority of the waste collectors wear reflector jackets, rubber boots and gloves for safety. 

Once their bags are full with a variety of items, collectors make their way down the waste hill to negotiate with buyers parked near the area.

Cash is provided once a deal has been reached between a collector and the buyer.