KZN waste pickers to be integrated into solid waste programme

05 June 2020 - 12:13 By lwandile bhengu
Sacred ibises hover as a waste-picker surveys the pickings at a dump site near Turffontein, Johannesburg.
Sacred ibises hover as a waste-picker surveys the pickings at a dump site near Turffontein, Johannesburg.
Image: Alon Skuy

The KwaZulu-Natal department of environmental affairs is looking into integrating waste pickers, who have been affected by the lockdown, into the solid waste management systems of municipalities. 

In a statement commemorating World Environment Day on Friday, environmental affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube said her department was aware of the effect that the lockdown had on waste pickers, who are part of an informal sector that has not been able to work. 

"We are fully aware that many waste collectors lost an income as a result of the outbreak of Covid-19. Before the lockdown, they earned R1,500 to R2,000 a month,” said Dube-Ncube. “Their problems have been compounded by the fact that, as they are in the informal economy, they are not registered for the Unemployment Insurance Fund. They are unable to claim from any other employment-related social security scheme,” she added. 

Dube-Ncube said she wished to pay tribute to and acknowledge the role waste pickers played in the province's environmental system.

“They collect waste, travel 60km-100km a day, pulling about 300kg of waste which they also segregate before selling to recycling traders. This a symbol of indomitable courage. It is for these reasons that I regard them as wastepreneurs,” she said. 

Dube-Ncube also warned communities and corporations of inappropriately discarding  waste and toxic chemicals, reminding them of the environmental damage the province faced in 2019.

“I personally witnessed thousands of dead fish and other species floating in Umsunduzi and Umngeni rivers - down to Inanda Dam. Residents from Sobantu, Eastwood, Cinderella Park, Madiba, Pavilion informal settlements, Valley of Thousands Hills and Inanda were inconvenienced and exposed to serious health hazards,” she said.


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