When necessity begets ingenuity: A study of informal waste recycling at Stellenbosch and Bellville, Cape Town
The local economy of the City of Cape Town supported by formal economic activities that are carried out through modern production processes whose existence is officially recognized and benefits from the protection of the authorities, and the informal activities that exist outside official control and protection systems. There is a dynamic connection between actors in the formal sector and those in the informal sector, which is seen at the levels of production, distribution and consumption of goods and services. This research investigates the linkages between informal and formal resource recovery activities in Devon Valley Landfill Site in Stellenbosch and Bellville South Landfill Site in Bellville. The two landfill sites are at the margins on the city economy where the formal and informal sectors interact and at times collide. Notwithstanding the negative health effects associated with the informal waste collections and the fact that informal waste collectors are neglected by policy makers in many developing countries in general and in South Africa in particular, evidence from Southern Africa has shown that the informal sector fosters considerable social, environmental and economic benefits that should be preserved. Informal recyclers constitute the essential workforce of the recycling business. These recyclers have undertaken various commercial and environmental tasks as a survival strategy long before the state and private entities became interested in participating in this profitable business. Waste recycling in most developing countries is a response to the inability of the formal economy to absorb a growing urban population, and the value placed on recyclable materials in the globalized economy. The study explores the various linkages between the informal sector and formal sector in the recycling industry and it examines the activities of these people involved in informal sector activities at the bottom end of the commonly neglected waste recycling chain. It also examines how waste pickers have developed livelihoods based on resource recovery activities at Devon Valley Landfill Site and Bellville South Landfill Site. This thesis is the result of an extensive literature review and primary data collection using a mixed methods approach. Primary sources of information consulted include, waste pickers, dealers, buy-back centres and manufacturing companies. This thesis attempts to establish the respective correlation between urban poverty, informal waste collection, and the recycling industries. The findings reveal that informal recycling is intricately linked to the formal recycling sector with waste pickers selling their waste to merchants and recyclers.