Written by groundwork (Friends of the Earth South Africa). groundwork.org.za. 06/17/2014
Pietermartizburg, KwaZulu Natal, 17 June 2014 – Umgungundlovu District Municipality was, in 2011, awarded R21 million by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) for implementation of a waste recycling project that would create 200 permanent, sustainable jobs. Due to the local municipality not signing off on the construction of the formal recycling centre, the cooperative of waste reclaimers or pickers  already working at the New England Road landfill site have been kept waiting for three years.
Not only is the waste picker cooperative, Hlanganani ma-Africa, and small recyclers tired of waiting so too is CoGTA, which is threatening to withdraw funding if the project is not completed. The project will be the construction of a Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) , a buy-back centre and a composting facility next to the landfill site. It will mean waste pickers will no longer be subjected to the dangerous working conditions of a landfill but will divert recyclables to be sold. By not signing the Memorandum of Understanding, Msunduzi Local Municipality is losing out on creating jobs and increasing the lifespan of the landfill.
Critically, this project would mean Pietermaritzburg would become the first zero waste  city in Africa. Diverting recyclables off the landfill site is not only a source of employment for people who would otherwise be impoverished but also means that waste is recycled and less methane is produced on the landfill during waste decomposition. It would also be the first project of its kind, as it would fall under management of the cooperative, a formalisation amongst waste pickers on the landfill that groundwork  and the national movement, the South African Waste Pickers’ Association (SAWPA) , have helped facilitate.
Instead of supporting the local social economy, Msunduzi Municipality has signed an agreement with Wildlands Conservation Trust to take all recyclable waste from Pietermaritzburg. Wildlands approaches waste recycling by paying waste pickers with vouchers for the recyclable materials they collect. Musa Chamane, Waste Campaigner at groundWork, explains why this approach is not favourable:
“This creates dependency and does not promote true entrepreneurship, as it does not put control in the hands of the waste pickers. Also, Wildlands is by-passing paying waste pickers the market rate for the kilograms of recyclables they collect and we are unsure whether the food vouchers are an equivalent amount.”
Choosing this over the proposed CoGTA and Umgungundlovu District Municipality project means Msunduzi Municipality is actively promoting bigger profits for the Trust and at the same time, killing all small recycling initiatives in Pietermaritzburg. Hlanganani ma-Africa, SAWPA and groundWork demand an answer from Msunduzi Municipality by the end of June.
 A waste picker is a person who collects reusable or recyclable materials that are part of the waste stream, either at the landfill site or on the street, and then sells these as their livelihood.
 A materials recycling facility is a specialized plant that receives, separates – separation can either be manually or automated – and prepares recyclable materials for markets and manufacturers.
 Zero waste is both a goal and a plan of action. The goal is to ensure resource recovery and protect scarce natural resources by ending waste disposal in incinerators, dumps, and landfills. The plan encompasses waste reduction, composting, recycling and reuse, changes in consumption habits, and industrial redesign. For more information, visit http://www.no-burn.org/
 groundWork is an environmental justice organisation working with community people from around South Africa, and increasingly Southern Africa, on environmental justice and human rights issues focusing on Coal, Climate and Energy Justice, Waste and Environmental Health. groundWork is the South African member of Friends of the Earth International www.groundwork.org.za
 The South African Waste Pickers’ Association is a national movement of people working on waste dumps and in streets collecting waste and earning an income from selling this waste material for recycling. It has over 10 000 affiliates from all provinces, except the Northern Cape.
Hlanganani ma-Africa Waste Picker Cooperative:
Tel (m): 071 626 2171
Tel (m): 078 054 2610
Media and Communications Campaigner
Tel (w): 033 342 5662
Tel (m): 083 450 5541
Tel (w): 033 342 5662