Waste pickers whose livelihoods have been rocked during the lockdown are getting some help from the packaging industry.  They have received electronic food vouchers via their cellphones thanks to an initiative by the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (Deff), and the packaging industry.

The initiative has a strong focus on reaching waste reclaimers in towns and cities across the country, and it’s estimated that approximately 3 925 reclaimers will receive vouchers which they can claim at specified retailers.


The voucher system is being used to ease the logistics of having to distribute food parcels to all provinces.

The partnership follows discussions between Deff, Packaging SA, Polyco, Petco, The Glass Recycling Company, Mpact Recycling, the Paper Manufacturing Association and the two organisations representing waste reclaimers, the African Reclaimers Organisation and the South African Waste Pickers Association.

Following discussions the industry donated R785 000 to the relief effort.

“It is heart-warming that the members of Packaging SA have come together with the Department to assist waste pickers in these trying times,” said Shabeer Jhetam, executive director of Packaging SA.

The City of Cape Town has said where residents are unable to access an operational recycling service, that they stockpile clean and dry recyclables until the lockdown has been lifted to reduce stress on the collections service and prevent the land-filling of recyclable waste.

“We appeal to residents or businesses who contract with private recycling collectors to remain loyal to these service providers, even if they are not operating during these unprecedented times,” mayco member for water and waste, Xanthea Limberg, said.

“Lockdown regulations require that City drop-off facilities are closed to the public during this time, as residents have been instructed to stay at home.

Residents who normally make use of these facilities are urged to please stockpile their clean, dry recyclables until the lockdown period is lifted.”