Johannesburg’s informal reclaimers march in protest on May 2

African Reclaimers Organisation (ARO) marched in Johannesburg, South Africa on May 2, 2019, in a large-scale protest against the city’s refusal to recognize them, answer their demands and offer fair treatment and compensation.

Joburg reclaimers

While these informal reclaimers are responsible for diverting massive amounts of recyclables out of the city’s waste stream, their livelihoods are threatened by privatization and a lack of engagement from the city. In a 27 March 2019 letter to city officials, ARO said:

“After two years of negotiations and effort to organise ourselves, you have failed to make any provision for us in the City’s budget. Yet the informal sector saves the City millions of Rands in landfill space and the fact that we reduce the amounts you spend on your fleets by reducing the amount of waste picked from households. In effect, WE are the ones who subsidise you, whilst ensuring that the Johannesburg has recycling rates comparable to European cities.”

The letter also noted that reclaimers had, in 2017, “proposed a plan for the incorporation of the informal sector that addresses all ….concerns about working with unorganised people”. The reclaimers say their plan involves the urgent implementation of recycling hubs, which would increase efficiency in collecting and transporting recyclables while reducing road accidents. So far they have received no response from the city.

This is ARO's MEDIA ALERT for the May 2 march:

African Reclaimers Organisation (ARO) will be marching on Pikitup and the City of Johannesburg on Thursday 2nd May

For two years there have been stop-start engagements between the organised reclaimers and the City of Johannesburg over the recognition of the work performed by reclaimers. Progress has faltered, leaving the reclaimers frustrated. Adding to their frustration is the fact that the City has given the workers no credit or compensation for the additional work they have been doing to assist in getting reclaimers registered by the City as part of a data collection process.


On Thursday, 2nd May, the reclaimers will be marching on Pikitup, the MMC for Environment and Planning, and the Mayor to present a set of demands.

AROs demands to the City, which should be responded to within 14 days, are as follows:

1. An end to your attempts to take our jobs from us. Stop your plans to contract companies to take away our only means of survival.

2. Suspend plans to close landfills without discussing alternative forms of livelihoods for those who save the city millions of rands by mining recyclables in landfills.

3. The negotiated Framework agreement for integration of Reclaimers must be ratified by the City.

4. There must be discussions on implementing Recycling hubs around the city to allow for access to transport, bailing facilities and sanitation stations for Reclaimers.

5. Reclaimers who are assisting with Registration of all recyclers must be compensated for their time, transportation and food costs for the duration of the campaign.

6. The City must fully participate in initiatives between Reclaimers, businesses and residents to improve recycling rates Johannesburg.

7. The City must assist Reclaimers with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for all Reclaimers registered with the city.

8. The City must make a formal declaration to fully implement Department of Environmental Affairs Waste Picker guidelines, with clear time frames.

Further details of the reasons behind the march are contained in the attached letter sent to MMC de Jager.

Time and Location

Reclaimers will gather at Mary Fitzgerald Square from 09.00 and will proceed to Braamfontein at 11.00, where a memorandum of demands will be handed over.For further information or interviews, please contact any of the following ARO Committee members:

Eva Mokoena    073.5155119

Steven Leeu    078.9578674 

Luyanda Hlatshwayo  060.5337781

 Eli Kodisang (organiser)  084.2783429