Informal reclaimers have been a part of the Johannesburg cityscape for decades now, those ubiquitous trolly-pullers and trolley-pushers on Johannesburg’s busy and surprisingly hilly roads.
There are around 6000 of them in the city, according to the Africa Reclaimers Organisation, one of the first organisations to try to get reclaimers organised to enable them to deliver a more integrated service while at the same time earning a living.
Luyanda Hlatshwayo and Eva Mokwoena, co-founders of ARO, visited the club to tell us more about the service they deliver and the work they do.
Luyanda told the club that the ARO has gained access to two trucks to help cart their recycled materials from rubbish bins and have launched a number of initiatives to inform people about the value of reclaiming as opposed to just dumping all rubbish in landfill sites that are already dangerously full.
Their modus operandi is to engage with reclaimers already in a community and try to get them to join ARO so that a more integrated approach to their work can be formulated. Although very successful, this has not always worked according to plan, he said. “Not all reclaimers are good guys. Not all SAPS cops are good guys either,” he said.
“We go to an area, organise the reclaimers, engage with the security companies and other businesses and officials in the area and work with big companies such as Coca-Cola and industry bodies and farmers, who give them about 250kg of fresh vegetables every week via the Johannesburg Market.
They’ve even managed to start a creche over the past three months and have helped improve working conditions immensely.
Luyanda also said they had begun issuing uniforms with ARO insignia and numbers on the back to make members more easily identifiable. They have a database of members and can communicate with them relatively easy on platforms such as WhatsApp.
At present there is a group at the University of Johannesburg doing a month long course on e-waste. One of the aims is to teach them how to extract more value from their reclaimed materials, or in practical terms how, for example, to get gold out of discarded cellphones.
ARO also helps reclaimers find the best markets and the most reliable suppliers for their wares.
“We’re at the bottom of the food chain, there’s a lot of stigma attached to reclaimers and is a dangerous job,” Luyanda said.
The rest of the meeting consisted of reports on a number of initiatives such as the Rotary Leadership Institute training at the weekend; Jeni Lobel’s shoes campaign where she’s posting collection boxes at Virgin Active gyms and the Power of Pennies fundraising effort.
Joan Sainsbury reported that there were 22 people at the training session, most from New Dawn and that the sessions were fun, informative and very worthwhile for new and existing members alike.
I’m not sure I have all of the names, but amongst the trainees were Lawrence Ruele, Amina Frense, Nola Ostle, Jobeko Mabaso, Mpho Mosia, Babette Gallard, Joan Sainsbury, Olivia and Shaun Khoza and Tshepo Ramutumba. Also there were two prospective members: Jacinta Opany-Agbara and Nyamezelo Khanyile, which will give them a very good start in Rotary.
Later on Wednesday Lawrence Ruele and the team in Alexandra launched the We Love Alexandra Community Makeover Project’s Business Development and Investment Summit in Kew and pronounced it a success. Helene Bramwell, Wendy Challis and Jeni Lobel attended from New Dawn and were impressed by the turnout.
Also at the meeting this week was Brian Nel, our speaker next week, from the organisation Rise Against Hunger.