Waste pickers have big plans
Durban - Waste pickers would make more money if the "middlemen" were cut out, a waste pickers organisation said on Monday.
Representatives of the Global Alliance of Waste Pickers demonstrated outside Durban's Inkosi Albert Luthuli convention centre where the COP 17 climate talks are being held.
They said waste pickers struggled to make ends meet because they sold the material they collected at ridiculously low prices to middlemen who made a fortune.
"Waste pickers throughout the world face serious difficulties because they can't sell directly to companies that recycle what they pick," said Mariel Vilella of the Global Alliance.
Waste pickers mainly sell plastics, aluminium, paper and metals.
Removing intermediaries would mean more money for waste pickers, Vilella said.
"We are busy trying to encourage waste pickers to organise themselves so that it can be easy for them to operate and make more money," she said.
South Africa had many waste pickers but only 30 000 were organised, she said.
"We have a number of waste pickers who have organised themselves in a number of Latin American countries. In Brazil, they have started a plastic factory. They melt plastic and sell it," she said.
Among the picketers on Monday was Marlene Cubillo, a waste picker from Costa Rica.
"I am here because I believe that waste pickers play a huge role. We need support so that we can contribute meaningfully in protecting the environment," she said.
Cubillo and her fellow waste pickers formed a company that sells waste material to companies that recycle them.
"We have a place where were sell our stuff. We no longer take our stuff to companies, they come to us," she said.
Through the help of the local municipality, Cubillo and her colleagues managed to get a building where they house all the material they collect.
Vilella described waste pickers as environmentalists, saying they play a huge role in reducing emissions.
"If you recycle you reduce emissions. Recycling means that you reduce mining of raw materials. You also ensure that fewer trees are cut to make paper," she said.
Recycling also reduced the amount of material that was put into landfill sites, Vilella said.
"In other areas, refuse is burnt, which increases pollution."
She said she hoped the establishment of the Green Fund would help waste pickers to grow their business.