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Pikitup’s Separation at Source Program and Waste Pickers' protests in Johannesburg, South Africa

Since July 2017, waste pickers in Johannesburg protested against the separation at source program, which threatens their livelihoods by prioritizing the transfer of recyclable waste from households to private companies.


On July 1st 2017, contracts signed between Pikitup, Johannesburg's official waste management service provider, and private recycling companies came into effect, threatening the livelihoods of thousands of informal street reclaimers (waste pickers) [1]. In September 2016, waste pickers learned that a tender was issued to appoint private companies to do separation at source in high-income areas, and with the support of WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing) and SAWPA (South African Waste Pickers Association) wrote letters to Pikitup, asking them to disclose and discuss with them their intentions [2]. However, while Lungile Dlamini, the Managing Director of Pikitup, said the waste management entity had met with the informal workers to discuss their grievances [3], these meetings were far from being what one would consider genuine engagement. According Eva Mokoena, a waste picker from Orange Farm, “We consulted them as waste pickers, with WIEGO. Then after that they said to us, ‘we’ll come back to you before this thing starts, then we will negotiate everything with you guys.’ Early this year (2017) we met with the City and Pikitup. We discussed about the workshop that they promised. In the workshop, they didn’t discuss anything with us, they just told us that the private sector is starting on the first of July. We were supposed to have a meeting on the 21st of June but they cancelled everything. We have never had a meeting from then until now. We are still waiting for them”[4].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Pikitup’s Separation at Source Program and Waste Pickers' protests in Johannesburg, South Africa
Country:South Africa
Location of conflict:Johannesburg
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Waste privatisation conflicts / waste-picker access to waste
Specific commodities:Domestic municipal waste
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Pikitup said that it will be accelerating [email protected] and similar programs with the goal of recycling and diverting approximately 73,000 tons of recycled waste annually over the next five years [6].

Project area:162,500 [12]
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:6,000-10,000 waste pickers [4].
Start of the conflict:13/07/2016
Company names or state enterprises:Pikitup Johannesburg (SOC) Ltd from South Africa - Johannesburg's waste management company implementing separation at souce
Relevant government actors:City of Johannesburg
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing),, SAWPA (South African Waste Pickers Association),, African Reclaimers Organization (ARO)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Wastepickers, recyclers
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Media based activism/alternative media
Street protest/marches
Health ImpactsPotential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Migration/displacement
Proposal and development of alternatives:(According to WIEGO) Registration: Waste pickers want to be registered in a database to be recognized and protected against harassment by authorities and the public, who often view them as criminals.
Transparency: All city projects, programmes, and service provider changes need to be discussed openly.
Sorting and Storage: Facilities with decent infrastructure, such as decent toilets, showers, and clean drinking water, are needed [2].
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The separation at source program continues.
Sources & Materials

[1] Johannesburg’s New Waste Programme Threatens Reclaimers’ Work
[click to view]

[2] Joburg’s Reclaimers Win Important First Victory in Fight Against Privatization
[click to view]

[3] Waste pickers in Roodepoort plan to protest
[click to view]

[4] SAFM Radio Broadcast with Vanessa Pillay of WIEGO and South African Waste Pickers
[click to view]

[5] Household Recycling Plan Leaves Waste Pickers Fighting for Crumbs
[click to view]

[click to view]

[7] Reclaimers ‘dispossessed’ in Joburg’s waste-based commodity frontier
[click to view]

[8] Hope for Johannesburg Waste Pickers
[click to view]

[9] Joburg to work with waste pickers as recycling kicks in
[click to view]

[10] Landfill and street recyclers for the first time united and organized in South Africa
[click to view]

[11] African Reclaimers Association
[click to view]

[12] Pikitup Website
[click to view]

[13] Informal Recyclers: Changing Space, Changing City
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

South African Waste Pickers Association (SAWPA) Facebook Page
[click to view]

African Reclaimers Association Facebook Page
[click to view]

JOHANNESBURG: Reclaimers (waste pickers) from 7 regions of the City of Joburg marched to protest a new separation at source program which could threaten their livelihoods (See: for details).

Waste pickers marched to the waste management service provider, Pikitup where Eva Mokoena presented a Memorandum of Demands to the Managing Director of Pikitup on behalf of the Interim Joburg Reclaimers Committee.
[click to view]

Other documents

PLANNED PICKET DEMONSTRATIONS BY WASTE RECLAIMERS Media Release from the City of Johannesburg and Pikitup regarding the planned waste picker protest in July 2017.
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Rickie Cleere, University of Bayreuth - ICTA, [email protected]
Last update15/08/2019
Conflict ID:4178
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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