The International Alliance of Waste Pickers is a union of waste picker organizations representing more than 460,000 workers across 34 countries
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September 13, 2012

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – 11 September 2012

groundWork, Friends of the Earth South Africa

South African Waste Pickers Association

sawpa waste pickers national exchange

Sibusiso Dladla (left) of the Mooi River waste pickers cooperative addresses SAWPA waste pickers during the national exchange.

Mooi River and Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 11 September 2012 – The waste picker cooperatives at the Mooi River and Pietermaritzburg landfill sites are giving meaning to a developing social economy in South Africa. This was the resounding feeling by the waste pickers yesterday at the South African Waste Pickers (SAWPA) [1] first national exchange, which saw waste pickers from across the country gather on these landfill sites to learn from each other’s experiences, share skills and ideas, and discuss the successes and challenges that SAWPA is facing at a local, provincial and national level.

Beginning at Mooi River, members of SAWPA’s national committee and environmental justice NGO groundWork [2] met with the local waste pickers at the landfill site here to view the progress made on the material recovery facility (MRF) [3] that is being built by the municipality for the 11 member waste picker cooperative. The MRF will mean that more recycling will take place, and thus, more income will be generated by the waste pickers. Space at the landfill will also remain open, potentially giving the site a longer existence, as well as ensuring a cleaner environment.

Sibusiso Dladla, member of the Mooi River cooperative, highlighted that establishing a cooperative and obtaining a secure working facility in the form of the MRF, has been a long one that has been marred with challenges of resources, like transport and money, but has eventually succeeded. In Mooi River, the waste picker cooperative meets with other cooperatives of various kinds in the area, and this, together with SAWPA, helps lend support to them.

Mooi River

SAWPA members were congratulatory of the cooperative and what they had achieved thus far. Discussion between SAWPA and the Mooi River cooperative looked at issues of uniforms and safety gear for the cooperative; dealing with and cutting out middle-men buyers; the importance of cooperatives developing a relationship with municipal officials; and and getting businesses on board to send their waste to the cooperative. groundWork is assisting the Mooi River cooperative with these issues and their future strategies to maintain their livelihoods.

SAWPA chairperson, Simon Mbata, spoke about establishing more projects as seen in Mooi River so that the money made by cooperatives can increase, and that this needs to be coupled with an awareness and training campaign of waste pickers at landfills and on the street, and the broader community in which they operate.

At Pietermaritzburg, the success at Mooi River is a huge motivation to begin construction of the MRF at the landfill site so that the 74 member cooperative will have a safe and efficient place to work. Like at Mooi River, Pietermaritzburg is to a large extent supported by the local and district municipalities, and at the meeting at the Pietermaritzburg landfill site, waste pickers were addressed by uMgungundlovu Municipality’s Technical Manager, Riaz Jogiat.

He pointed out that despite lack of resources and manpower in municipalities, the pilot project at Mooi River needs to be seen as the model that is used at landfill sites across the country as it is evidence that cooperatives can work.


[1] The South African Waste Pickers Association is a movement of people working on waste dumps and in streets collecting waste and earning an income from selling this waste material for recycling.

[2] groundWork is an environmental justice organization working with community people from around South Africa and increasingly in Southern Africa on environmental justice and human rights issue focusing on Air Pollution, Climate and Energy Justice, Waste and Environmental Health. groundWork is a member of Friends of the Earth International.

[3] A materials recovery facility is a specialised plant that reduces municipal solid waste going to landfills by receiving recyclable materials and preparing them for end-user manufacturers.


Simon Mbata, SAWPA, at or 073 003 8170

Musa Chamane, groundWork Waste Campaign Manager, at or 033 342 5662

For media queries:

Megan Lewis, Media, groundWork, at or 033 342 5662 / 083 450 5541