Brian Sokutu
Senior Print Journalist
2 minute read
14 Oct 2021
7:15 am

Waste pickers vital to economy

Brian Sokutu

The chemical and waste industry has the potential to create 150 000 new jobs by 2024, according to a senior government official.

Waste pickers are pictured in Newtown, Johannesburg, 24 March 2020.  They were speaking to the Citizen on how the lock down will affect their livelihood.  Picture: Tracy lee Stark 

The next time you spot waste pickers outside your gate or in the street, do not treat them like trash – the chemical and waste industry has the potential to create 150,000 new jobs by 2024, according to a senior government official.

Addressing a webinar masterclass on waste management as a youth business model, acting chief director Thabo Magomola of the department of forestry, fisheries and environment (DFFE) said waste management – recognised by government as providing opportunities for value recovery, beneficiation, job creation and economic development – created “a significant opportunity to grow the economy”.

Describing waste recycling and its beneficiation as “a catalyst and contributor to the circular economy”, Magomola said accelerating waste recycling – waste-to-energy and beneficiation – was “key to unlocking the possible economic opportunities in the waste sector”.

ALSO READ: A day in life of a waste picker

Spelling out government objectives – in line with the National Waste Management Strategy, a legislative requirement of the National Environmental Management: Waste Act – Magomola said the department was committed to supporting the recycling enterprise through:

  • The renewable energy support programme – implemented and funded through the DFFE on a yearly basis; and
  • Grant funding of up to R5 million for new entrants and emerging enterprises in the recycling economy, aimed at empowering previously disadvantaged institutions.

Magomola said government funding support was for waste management related machinery, equipment and infrastructure – and included salaries and business development services.

Magomola added that the thrust of government’s waste management strategy was that of “shifting the focus for municipal services from collection and disposal to separation at source and waste beneficiation”.

Waste-picker-turned-entrepreneur Tshepo Mazibuko said the K1 Recycling company he founded in 2009 – a beneficiary of government’s grant – created 21 permanent jobs and 800 suppliers. However, due to the advent of the Covid pandemic, K1 Recycling had to shed 12 jobs.