WastePreneurs victorious in the first step against eviction attempts

wastepreneurs victorious

WastePreneurs victorious in the first step against eviction attempts

It has been a long and arduous battle between Joburg’s WastePreneurs and the City Of Johannesburg Property Company, but on Friday 1st November the Non-Profit organization won the first interdict against the JPC, repealing their eviction from their waste sorting premises at Pirates Club in Greenside. It’s a small victory, but an important one in securing the future for an initiative that improves the lives of so many people.

The JPC forced the Pirates’ Club to evict the WastePreneurs in order to maintain their lease agreement with the City. This latest ruling, thanks to the stellar probono work by Attorneys Sim and Botsi, allows WastePreneurs to keep operating at their current premises in Greenside – an incredibly important outcome for the 110 WastePreneurs who earn their livelihood at the site.

The legality of WastePreneurs has never been in question. The court case, in this instance, refers to whether Pirates may, or may not, under the terms of their lease accommodate the WastePreneurs.

Waste pickers and their trolleys are a familiar sight on the streets of Johannesburg. Though they do face some critique from residents, most people don’t realise the public service the waste pickers render by ensuring a vast amount of Johannesburg’s recyclable waste is kept out of land fills and transported to recycling depots, daily.

The aim of the WastePreneurs initiative was to help formalize the waste picking system and to aid some of the poorest (and undeniably hard-working) people in our society to earn a livelihood for themselves and their families.

The WastePreneurs pilot operates from a depot on the premises of Pirates Sports Club in Greenside. They collect recyclable waste from various suburbs in northern Johannesburg and transport it to the Pirates WastePreneurs depot, where it is sorted, weighed and sold to recycling businesses.

Most Joburg waste pickers have to transport their recyclables to a depot in Newtown, or alternatively, Alexandra. Due to the distances they have to travel, most only manage one trip per day which would earn them R70 to R80.

The 110 WastePreneurs, on the other hand, only have to travel to Greenside from the nearby northern suburbs. By virtue of these shorter trips they can make up to four trips a day which means they can earn substantially more – between R280 and R320 per day.

Further, the WastePreneurs have been homed, so they are off the streets, they earn a comparatively decent income and are afforded the basic dignity we believe all South Africans are entitled to. 

Consequently, we are absolutely baffled by the City of Joburg’s relentless efforts to shut down the WastePreneurs depot at Pirates Club.

Besides the fact that this initiative is essentially providing formalised employment, even more confounding is that it provides a desperately needed service to the City, free of charge. This is even more important, as the fact is that the municipality’s contractually appointed refuse collector does not recycle waste at all, but rather disposes recyclable waste to landfills, which has major environmental and sustainability consequences for our rapidly expanding city.

Pirates Club currently allows WastePreneurs to operate from a portion of its grounds, free of charge. This allows the Non-Profit Organisation WastePreneurs to pay the full revenue generated by the depot back to the waste collectors rather than having to retain some earnings for a major expense like rent. The City’s eviction would cripple this initiative overnight.

In a city that has no formal recycling system, the importance of the WastePreneurs’ contribution cannot be overstated. For residents who are concerned about WastePreneurs going through their waste, there is a simple solution. We advocate that residents talk to their local WastePreneurs and ask them what they need, ideally separate out waste at home, and place it in separate bags outside. Not only have Joburg residents helped the key process of recycling, but they are also helping hard-working citizens earn a living.

Winning this interdict against the JPC is the first step to building a network of sustainably employed WastePreneurs who provide a free service that our country desperately needs.