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Palmer Street recyclers celebrate March 1

Informal Recycler Afrika Ntuli doing the toi-toi dance to show his solidarity for Global Recyclers Day. Pic by Groundwork, Southafrica

By Tasmi Quazi

Asiye eTafuleni (AeT) has had experience working with informal recyclers operating from public spaces, and since 2009, has been working closely with two groups of inner-city cardboard recyclers on the Cardboard Recycling Project. This is a city government commission awarded to AeT to implement strategies which improve the livelihood prospects of cardboard recyclers. Consequently through this Project, it has become clear that beyond the obvious benefits of informal recycling as a low-barrier job that is accessible to the most marginalized individuals in society and its contribution to keeping urban spaces clean; it is a prime example of a green economy job.

With changing global priorities and a growing pressure to significantly increase recycling rates and find new and innovative ways of using waste, there is an opportunity to transform the status and perception of informal recyclers. Accordingly, for AeT, Global Recyclers’ Day is an important opportunity to highlight the valuable contributions of informal recyclers to the environment and urban economies.

Africa Ntuli and Victoria Bubu showing solidarity for Global Recyclers’ Day. Picture by AeT, Southafrica

These comments are what some of Durban’s inner-city informal recyclers had to say about Global Recyclers’ day on 1 March 2012:

“I am grateful, feel respected and honoured, and I feel happy to know that at the global level, recyclers are united! Informal recycling is an important sector to the formally unemployed because we earn a living which helps to support our families. We not only contribute to sustaining nature, but also the economy of our country. We should all be given the respect we deserve and it is also an opportunity to thank the businesses and people that let us remove their waste. They should continue supporting us in this system!” Afrika Ntuli 

“Meeting other informal recyclers from around the world during COP 17 and Global Recyclers’ Day shows me that we are being recognised world-wide and that our challenges are universal. It is also an incentive for me to continue working hard in this job.” Victoria Bubu

“To me being part of the international delegation of recyclers at COP 17 and Global Recyclers’ Day means that as recyclers we are increasingly being treated as humans, and as humans with rights.” Musa Khoza