Living on what others throw away: an exploration of a socio-economic circumstances of people collecting and selling recyclable waste

18 Oct 2013

Street waste pickers are becoming a common sight on the streets of South Africa’s cities and suburbs. Little research has been done on this social phenomenon. The aim of this article is to explore some of the socioeconomic circumstances of the people who collect recyclable waste in South Africa’s cities. The research identifies the pivotal role played by the waste pickers in the waste management system even if they are unaware of it. Being a waste picker offers unskilled, unemployed people the opportunity to enter the informal economy in order to earn or augment their income. The social service professional can play a supportive role at different levels such as psychosocial support and at policy level. Several areas of further research are identified.