The waste collectors reported that their biggest challenges relate to getting consistent access to waste which is restricted when they are harassed and chased away by City officials, enforcement agencies and some members of the public who consider them a source of public nuisance and urban clutter. Therefore, they face social stigma at a number of levels and are frowned upon by their communities for doing “dirty” work.
From a development perspective, what aggravates the social stigma is the lack of knowledge about the role and contribution of the informal sector in the recycling value chain. The smart card system proposed in the R4R project would aid in quantifying the volumes of waste recycled by the collectors which in turn will increase their value and status as contributors to the green economy. The smart card systems also represents a non-intrusive method of gaining knowledge on the contributions of informal recycling. From a social perspective, we believe that the R4R project would enable the collectors to be seen by their communities and the general public as catalyzing community-based greening programs through their work of informal recycling, and this would be transformative of the negative public attitudes towards them.
A second definitive challenge mentioned by the waste collectors is the need for supportive infrastructure and equipment to enhance their ability to collect recyclables more efficiently, resulting in increased incomes. The R4R Project would enable us to continue the programmatic approach initiated through the pilot project in partnership with the City’s Imagine Durban Project, and accordingly continue developing and advocating for supportive infrastructure and equipment for waste collectors.
In relation to your question about the support that Amplify can provide, the reality of the situation is that the waste picking sector does not easily attract funding. An asset that Amplify would thus bring is the provision of catalytic funding. The program started off with an innovative approach through the support of the Imagine Durban Project, however internal competition for local funding is frustrating the continuance of this initial work. In addition, as an organisation, we’re strong with a project based approach which is what Amplify’s funding would enable. Project-based work is short-term and an easier means to get local government departments to commit to specific and short-term goals which incrementally, through a series of projects, allow for developmental gain within a specific informal sector.
The other benefit that Amplify will bring is that because it is set in the context of innovation, it will better capture people’s imagination and participation. This is critical given the negative attitudes towards the waste picking sector. The ability for innovation-based projects to transform negative attitudes towards waste pickers was well-proven with our pilot project supported by the Imagine Durban Project.
Thanks for the tips. We have responded to the questions asked by the IDEO Expert Chioma Ume in the comment section and the new question posed at the end of the post about the connections to the broader systems of the city.