Photo feature: All hail the trash gods

2018-01-14 06:14
Residents of Dryhook say the Devlan waste site is a mountain made of materials that can be recycled. They spend hours every day rummaging through plastic, sorting glass and crumpling paper. PHOTOs: Mpumelelo Buthelezi

Residents of Dryhook say the Devlan waste site is a mountain made of materials that can be recycled. They spend hours every day rummaging through plastic, sorting glass and crumpling paper. PHOTOs: Mpumelelo Buthelezi

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Waste collectors are a ubiquitous sight on the streets and rubbish dumps in Johannesburg. Mpumelelo Buthelezi investigates how this enterprising community survived the festive season, which is usually a good time for them and they can make as much as R4 000 over the period.

Waste collectors are unsung environmental heroes as they help to keep the city clean and free of health hazards. They collect scrap metal, plastic bottles and anything else that can bring in money to feed their families.

They were kept busy over the holidays and many said it was the best time of the year. But there was no time to rest and most are back at work and hard at it again.

“I wake up at 04:00 to be the first to collect,” says Mokanka Moraoetsi (34) from the ePlazini informal settlement near Devland in Soweto.

Ntate Jass, who collects and sells reusable and recyclable materials such as paper, cardboard and plastic containers, says he used the money he made over the festive season to buy clothes for his youngest daughter. He lives with her in ePlazini.

Most waste collectors who make a living from the Devland waste site are from the neighbouring informal settlements of Dryhook, Phororo and ePlazini.

Jass says waste collectors are the main contributors to recycling and help to divert waste from landfills.

The recycling removal trucks transport their waste materials to different recycling companies.

The waste collectors get R3.20 a kilogram for plastic containers and empty cans; R1.20 a kilogram for plastic; and R2 a kilogram for cardboard boxes. They make R40 to R60 on a good day and up to R200
a week.

An estimated 85 000 people make a living as waste collectors in South Africa.

Mokanka Moraoetsi (34) has been collecting recyclable materials for more than five years. His work helps him to put food on his family’s table and clothes on their backs


Mashume Tasho collects waste materials from townships around Soweto and other parts of Johannesburg. A landfill in Devland provides an income for many in the area


The landfill in Devland, Soweto, is reaching capacity. The solution is to recycle waste, which also helps people to make a living


Gladman Mazibuko (25) is a young waste picker who collects recyclable boxes and bottles for a living. He is one of many in South Africa who are desperate for work


Ntate Jass’ youngest daughter helps her dad to collect recyclable materials in Devland, Soweto. It’s not an easy job and he spends many hours every day collecting glass and plastic so that he can feed his family


Mpho Mosebo is a new waste picker who started collecting recyclable materials over the festive season


Johnna Moyo collects recyclable materials across Soweto. He makes about R4 000 a month, but he has to work every day to get that kind of money


Read more on:    johannesburg

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