As we manage our way through this pandemic, we need to acknowledge our waste workers who keep our waste sector running and our environment clean. “While everyone is at home, household waste generation has increased; but many recyclers and collections companies are not able to operate; and our waste pickers have been cut off from their livelihoods. We need to do every bit that we can to help the recycling industry and its people through this lockdown,” says Mandy Naudé, CEO of the Polyolefin Responsibility Organisation (Polyco).

Waste reclaimers (informal waste collectors) work tirelessly within urban areas and communities to collect recyclables for an income to support their families. Following lockdown regulations, waste reclaimers have consequently lost their livelihoods. In response, Polyco has collaborated with other producer responsibility, industry and recycling organisations, to support members of two organisations representing waste reclaimers; the African Reclaimers Organisation (ARO) and the SA Waste Pickers Association (SAWPA). This industry partnership has funded a total of R785 000 towards the relief effort for waste reclaimers.

“We recognise the important role that waste reclaimers play within the recycling sector and in turn how the recycling stream provides them with a source of income,” says Naudé. “Polyco has donated R100 000 towards this relief fund.” Waste reclaimers who are members of ARO and SAWPA will receive electronic Goodwill Vouchers on their cellphones via, that can be used at a number of outlets to buy essential goods while they cannot work.

While general waste collection, as an essential service, is scheduled to continue, many collection and recycling services will temporarily halt collection and drop off centres are closed. “We are calling on all residents to wash and store their recyclables and keep them for collection after lockdown ends,” says Naudé. “By storing your recyclables, you are reducing the stress on our waste collection services and helping to prevent this valuable stream from going to landfill. Once our recycling sector is fully operational again, the build up of collected recyclables from households will supply a valuable material source to stimulate our recycling economy post lockdown.”

To raise awareness about the importance of recycling, Polyco is driving the Million Plus campaign, which is a movement aimed at establishing a plastic recycling revolution throughout South Africa. “Now is a great time to pledge your commitment to better household recycling habits by joining the Million Plus plastic recycling revolution,” says Naudé. Million Plus aims to mobilise more than one million South Africans within the next five years to recycle their plastic packaging. To encourage people to continue, or start, recycling during lockdown, Polyco have pledged that for every new person that likes the Million Plus Facebook page and follows the Instagram page during lockdown, Polyco will donate an additional R10 towards the Waste Reclaimers fund, up to a maximum value of R50 000.

While the waste and recycling sector comes together to support waste reclaimers, you can support the growth of the recycling sector by joining Million Plus revolution. “Make recycling your next lockdown challenge; how much of your waste are you recycling and how many of your friends and family can you get to join,” asks Naudé. Let the recycling community know @millionplusrecyclers on Instagram or on the Million Plus Recyclers Facebook page.

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