Byo waste pickers demand designated workspaces

Bulawayo waste pickers are imploring the city council to allocate them open spaces to conduct their operations.

This issue arose during a waste pickers conference in conjunction with the commemoration of the International Waste Pickers Day on Friday.

The Chairperson of the Pumula waste pickers cooperative, Buhlebenkosi Ngwenya, told CITE in an interview that they lack designated operating spaces, which hinders their business.

“Our hope is that the city council grants us open spaces where we can currently store the waste that we pick while it awaits selling,” she said. “Due to the lack of operating space right now, we keep the waste in our backyards. Mind you, this is waste that we are picking, so imagine what the sight in our homes will be like at the end of the day. We really need to have designated areas to operate from.”

Ngwenya expressed an additional hope for access to loans. “Upon initially approaching various institutions that could offer us financial support for our operations, they said we must come together as cooperatives,” she explained. “We have since formed these cooperatives amongst ourselves, and now we await finishing a few tasks before we can be fully registered.”

Ngwenya added that having access to loans would enable them to acquire equipment for value addition. “When you look at the waste that we are currently selling, it is in its rawest form, hence it generates very little income,” she said. “We therefore want to have equipment that will enable us to sell processed waste, which will provide us with more income.”

Coordinated by the Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights, Khumbulani Maphosa, the conference allowed them to evaluate their progress in advancing the waste-picking sector.

“Today, we were commemorating Waste Pickers Day and held a conference for them,” Maphosa said. “We were trying to evaluate ourselves and see how far we have advanced as a social movement. We had waste pickers from various parts of the city, and they were telling us what they wish could be improved in their sector, especially in the high-density, low-income areas.”

“They have since organised themselves into cooperatives,” he explained. “They have been trained by the Ministry of Women Affairs, MIHR, and other cooperatives to run their cooperatives effectively. They are still taking initial steps, adjusting to group dynamics and understanding the concept, and therefore, they require support.”

He added, “They raised concerns regarding the lack of access to personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary to handle sharp objects and hazardous chemicals, as well as the need for loans and grants to purchase equipment for upcycling and value addition. We plan to take actionable steps on the issues raised and identify potential solutions.”

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