Government will be distributing food vouchers to waste pickers
in an effort to support yet another industry that has come to a standstill but had
not received any financial relief since South Africa went on lockdown in
mid-March.

The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries said
since the collection of recyclable waste was not included as an essential
service during the lockdown, waste pickers have been unable to earn a living
and are “currently experiencing situations of extreme hardship.”

The department announced on Sunday that after several
meetings with the packaging industry, it has secured R785 000 which will
be used to help waste pickers and reclaimers who have lost their livelihoods. Twelve
companies in the packaging industry made donations.

About 3 925 waste pickers who make a living by recycling
materials such as paper, plastics and bottles in different cities around the
country will receive vouchers during the week which they can reclaim at
specified retailers. The department had already paid 1 000 of these vouchers to
waste reclaimers by Thursday, 9 April, it said.

Minister of Forestry and Fisheries and Environmental Affairs,
Barbara Creecy said the electronic vouchers will be distributed to waste
pickers’ cell phones. Organisations representing re-cyclers have submitted lists
of beneficiaries who will receive the vouchers.

“We decided to work via the associations because we
want to make sure that it’s people who are legitimately reclaimers,” said the
department’s spokesperson, Albi Modise.

“But it could be that we move on, we find additional
reclaimers who may not have been on the initial lists or people who’ve changed
cellphone numbers and we’ve struggled to get hold of them. Those people must
get in touch with their associations.”

The department said also with the help of Coca-Cola
Beverages SA and Fibre Circle, it also distributed food parcels to waste
pickers in Gauteng and handed out food vouchers to the waste reclaimers in
Sasolburg. 

“We are extremely grateful to all those who have opened
their hearts to the distress of Waste Reclaimers. Because the need out there is
so great, we urge others to join our partnership and donate generously,” said
Creecy.

Compiled by Londiwe Buthelezi


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