Grice, Jenny. 2020. View from the Mountain: A South African Waste Picker's Uphill Battle during COVID-19. WIEGO Workers' Lives No. 8. WIEGO.
Justina Kgoele’s daily work on a Johannesburg landfill mountain comprises selecting recycling material from mounds of garbage and then separating the different plastics, as well as carrying the heavy bags of recycling. She’s done this for more than 20 years.
When COVID-19 hit, it was her resourcefulness that got her through the worst of the crisis. Forced to make new plans to survive, Justina tells of how she liaised with the African Reclaimers Organisation (ARO) to get food parcels and PPE to waste pickers.
What waste pickers really need now, she says – and it’s something that ARO has been fighting for – is space where they can safely store and sort their material. Being back at work is crucial, she says. “…It’s what makes me happy. I’m back at work.”