To most, waste-pickers or recyclables collectors are simply anonymous city dwellers, who emerge on rubbish collection day to trawl through bins – picking out anything to be sold and recycled. Many of us curse their bulky trolleys, occupying most of the road. Ever wondered why and how they do what they do?
Phahama, an organisation for the upliftment of individuals in the waste industry, has shifted the way waste pickers operate with the Phahama Pedal Power Project, to be launched in Johannesburg on the 18th of July: Nelson Mandela Day.
The project, founded by Clive Harding, builds tricycles and loans them free-of-charge to homeless waste collectors, who sell their wares to be recycled by manufacturers. Through the project, local businesses can sponsor tricycles branded with their logos and information – and thus create a new and innovative form of advertising that’s as philanthropic as it is effective.
Sponsoring a Phahama tricycle for the Cycle for Recycle initiative turns a waste collector into an entrepreneur on the road, with a tricycle that improves their productivity and income, whilst also addressing waste management and providing advertising for businesses looking to get their name out there.
The ‘trikeneurs’ are sourced through referrals from buy-back centres. They’re supplied uniforms, monthly stipends and a tricycle with bins to collect waste. There are 26 000 mobile waste pickers in SA who are desperate to work – not only does this project create jobs but also protects the environment.
Waste pickers are often marginalised in society, with their work stigmatised as undignified.
“Waste pickers aren’t formalised and integrated into the waste economy and face exploitation from buy-back centres,” says project founder Clive Harding. “They face serious health and safety challenges. Some walk up to 40km a day and only earn an average of R300 a week.”
The project assists these individuals with self-sustaining micro-businesses and an opportunity for growth. Not only does this employment restore dignity, it means they can support themselves and their families. The tricycles are easier to move, have a triple breaking system and can carry up to 300kg. Waste collectors are held accountable, reporting back to project co-ordinators on a regular basis.
Safety in shelter
Many waste pickers are homeless, so the Phahama project has also partnered with Good Night South Africa, who create and distribute back-pack beds. Each of the beneficiaries of the project will also receive a back-pack bed.
Founder of Good Night South Africa, Iain Johnston, believes the back-packs are – for some – a life-saving form of mobile shelter that protect the human rights of people sleeping on the street.
A sustainable project
The Phahama Pedal Power Project has been rolled out in two provinces so far. In Gauteng, with 12 tricycles, and in the Western Cape, with 11 tricycles – with hopes to expand throughout the country.
The target is to secure 35 more tricycles by the 18th of July. There are currently 20 entrepreneurs in the project, 80% being women who are actively involved in the project in Braamfischerville and Soweto.
About 60 families are supported through the programme, which will continue to stimulate job creation and broaden SMEs participation in the waste sector. The project has gained much momentum and many organisations and businesses like Pick n Pay have become contributors.
The Phahama Pedal Power Project aims to grow a nationwide network that places value and emphasis on skills development and dignity through employment, while protecting the environment – with the help and support of willing, conscious South African businesses.
For more information on the Phahama and Good Night South Africa Cycle for Recycle Initiative or to sponsor a tricycle, contact Willem Lindeque on 076 423 6570 & firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com