Municipal regulation of food and waste pickers on landfill sites in South Africa: what should municipalities (dis)allow?
Damon, Lucille Tracy
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The unemployment rate in South Africa is alarmingly high. In the year 2018, the unemployment rate was recorded at 27.2%. Many people are forced to do desperate, and even dangerous things in order to sustain themselves. This includes people going into landfills to collect recyclable materials to sell and look for a meal. Collecting and retailing recyclable waste has become an informal source of income for thousands of people in South Africa. Waste pickers are individuals whose survival largely depends on collecting, sorting and selling recyclable waste. Waste pickers are defined as people who “collect, sort and sell reusable and recyclable materials”. They embark on waste picking as a means of survival. Given the fact that informal waste management is not regulated by the government, waste pickers are left vulnerable to exploitation and hazardous working environments. Waste pickers are denied access to landfills by either private companies, where municipalities have outsourced this function, or by municipalities themselves. Depending on the management of the landfill, waste pickers could also potentially be faced with crime on landfills with gangsters robbing them of their recyclables and/or hard earned money.