Every week waste pick-ers push and pull approximately 100kg of recyclable waste on a trolley through the busy streets of Pretoria to a recycling company in Waltloo, where they sell the trash for cash. Simba Lloyd, 32, is one of the many street waste pickers responsible for between 400 to 450 tons of waste a month recycled by the Green Deeds Recycling (GDR).
Lloyd was previously homeless and now lives in a shack in GaRankuwa after he started to collect waste five months ago.
“On a Tuesday I start as early as 5am in Lynnwood where I make my way back to Waltloo,” he said.
Waste pickers such as Lloyd easily pull up to 110kg stacked on the trolley at a time. He said some of the challenges on the street are the race to collect the waste before the municipality truck arrives and street politics.
“Some roads belong to certain people.” Lloyd says complexes are not very fond of the waste pickers. Tuesdays are the busiest days at GDR with waste pickers start-ing to line up to drop off the collected waste from as early as 7.30am and the last waste pickers only leaving at4.30pm.
GDR branch manager Ash Singh said he wished to educate the public to help make the waste pickers’ job more dignified.
“Put all the recyclable waste into one bag for the street pickers to collect and sort easily. This will keep them from having to scratch in the dustbins for the waste.”
Lloyd said some of the bins “are disgusting with pads and rotten food” – and sometimes they find things such as “bullets and diamond earrings”. Meanwhile, at the GDR gate, each waste picker is screened and sanitised before entering the yard.
The waste picker then moves to the area allocated to sort the materials according to type before it is weighted and stored for the next step of the process. The waste then is bagged and stored before going through the bailing machine – where it is compressed in big blocks and stored to be collect to be recycled.
During The Citizen’s visit to GDR, a waste picker brought in a total of 179kg consisting of 106kg of cardboard, 71kg of plastic and 2kg of white paper which earned him R220.
The waste pickers make anything from R60 to R200 per load depending on the waste type and value.
“GDR processes between 10 to 21 tons of recyclable waste on an average day. Waste that would otherwise end up on the landfills is now recycled,” said Singh.
He said GDR offers a skills development project – funded by the National Lottery – where they empower the waste pickers each week in training sessions on-site.
“The waste pickers are educated about various subjects, from saving money to environmental awareness and recycling. If they are dressed properly, they will take pride in their work.”
The waste pickers are also gifted with personal protective equipment, overalls and food par-cels.
“They are also given an ABSA card to help them save some of the money they make.”