Compiled by Tasmi Quazi
Two comprehensive articles on the role of informal recycling, or waste picking, nationally and internationally have been written by Mark Carras for Urban Earth and Stephen Charters for Sustainable Cities International, both citing Asiye eTafuleni’s Inner-city Cardboard Recycling Project as a good practice example.
Carras’ article titled “Waste pickers in South Africa”, refers to the experiences of Asiye eTafuleni (AeT) in South Africa in the provision of integrated strategies aimed at enhancing the livelihoods of waste pickers within their urban work places. In addition he mentions waste picker organisations such as Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat (KKPKP) in Pune, India and Asociacion de Recicladores de Bogota (ARB) in Columbia that have been able to counter the growing privatisation of waste management by bidding for local government contracts as waste management service providers.
Charters in his article titled “Building More Sustainable Cities: Urban recyclers – the need for proper storage and sorting space” writes more specifically about the urban design and planning needs of the sector with reference to not only AeT, but experiences in Dar-es-Salaam and “United We Can” in Vancouver , Canada. As Charters motivates:
“…cities of the future need to proactively tackle the challenge of creating physical space for recycling activities. Without these spaces it will be difficult to achieve high level of recycling that many cities aim for. In addition, spaces close to the sources of waste are required to ensure that transport-based carbon emissions are kept to a minimum.
(…) While in most cities very little is done to ensure the availability of space for recycling activities, there are a few examples where the issue of space allocation is being tackled proactively as a means for improving urban environmental quality and achieving poverty alleviation and social equity goals. In Durban, the long-term sustainable development office of the municipality, Imagine Durban, has partnered with Asiye eTafuleni and other departments to realize a number of projects designed to support the informal recycling sector…”
These articles are indicative of the growing importance of informal recycling in ensuring environmental, social and economic sustainability, and as a significant pillar of the green economy. Furthermore, this is stimulating thinking around the supportive role that can be played by governments and other critical stakeholders for the enhancement of this valuable livelihood strategy which has multiple spin-offs to society and the environment at large.