FEEL GOOD | Johannesburg suburb residents donate 'trikes' and uniforms to waste reclaimers

Residents of Sunninghill, Johannesburg have created a 'trike' for reclaimers in their neighbourhood. The bicycle, with a trailer attachment, will be used to transport recyclable materials.
Residents of Sunninghill, Johannesburg have created a 'trike' for reclaimers in their neighbourhood. The bicycle, with a trailer attachment, will be used to transport recyclable materials.
PHOTO: Zoë Postman/GroundUp
  • Reclaimers have become a common feature on Johannesburg's roads as they go about cleaning the city.
  • A group of 20 reclaimers will soon be scooting around the city on new, safer wheels.
  • The City of Johannesburg says collaboration between the council, communities, corporates and the reclaimers is necessary.


About 20 reclaimers in Johannesburg will soon be carting their recyclable materials around with prototype "trikes".

The bikes with a trailer attachment were donated to the reclaimers – who are members of African Reclaimers Organisation (ARO) – by residents of Sunninghill with assistance from businesses.

Dave Braithwaite, an engineer from Euro Steel who designed the trike, said the width and height of the trailers were effectively smaller than the reclaimers' trolleys because it had enclosed sides. This was to be compliant with City by-laws on the road, he said.

Reclaimers are currently able to load about 250kg on the trolleys.

Braithwaite said the trike had the capacity to load more but pulling the weight uphill may be a challenge.

He said the trike was designed to avoid overloading.

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On Thursday, Sunninghill residents Sean Jory-Burgess and Shaun Slabber from the Green Buffalos organisation showcased the first prototype to reclaimers. It forms part of a project to formalise reclaimers in the neighbourhood.

The reclaimers were also given uniforms with their names on it.

Bridging the gap

Steven Leeuw, from ARO, said this initiative was crucial to bridging the gap between residents and reclaimers in Sunninghill.

"There have been many instances where residents had called the security company to remove reclaimers from the neighbourhood because they thought reclaimers were criminals or were responsible for leaving rubbish around their houses," he said.

He said Green Buffalo and ARO would still engage on how to improve the prototype according to reclaimers' operational needs.

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Slabber admitted that he was one of the residents who had called security on reclaimers.

"Unfortunately, reclaimers are blanketed with criminal activity by residents in the neighbourhood because residents are not educated about the work they do," he said.

Jory-Burgess said now that reclaimers had uniforms and the trike, they would be easily identifiable and residents would know that they are working in the area.

Expanding lifespan of landfills

Jory-Burgess said they would manufacture about 20 trikes within the next five weeks to distribute to the reclaimers.

Stanley Itshegetseng from the City of Johannesburg's environmental, infrastructure and services department, said it supported such initiatives because it recognised reclaimers' role in the City's waste management.

He said: 

In Johannesburg we have three years before our landfill sites are full to capacity. The work these guys (reclaimers) are doing is assisting us to expand the lifespan of the landfills so that we can open up alternative landfill spaces.

If organisations and residents ensured that reclaimers had uniforms, a database for people who worked in the area was created and residents start to know the reclaimers' names, they would start to embrace them, he said.

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The City had identified reclaimer organisations in Johannesburg and invited the leadership to be a part of the City's projects, he said.

A collaboration between the City, communities, corporate companies and reclaimers was necessary, said Itshegetseng.

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