“If women are not integrated then it is not waste picker integration!”

If waste pickers are not included in separation at source then it is “waste picker dis-integration”.

Reclaimers are the experts on how to extract recyclables from the waste stream.

Integration means moving from a “charity approach” to a “partnership approach”.

Reclaimers have been subsidizing municipalities and the recycling industry for years.

This website


In South Africa and around the world, waste pickers (also known as reclaimers in South Africa) are finally being recognized and valued through “waste picker integration”. But what does this mean?


This website is designed to help individuals and organisations learn more about the people who work as reclaimers, the contributions they make, and how to make waste picker integration a reality. Teachers and facilitators can use the materials in classes and in workshops for municipalities, industry, communities, and reclaimers.

Possible journeys

This website includes a number of different kinds of resources. The pages on Understanding Reclaimers and waste pickers, Understanding Integration, the Seven Steps for Waste Picker Integration, and Case Studies combine written texts, photo stories, videos, animations, and reclaimer profiles to provide holistic understandings of these topics. You could work your way through these or focus on just one of them. If you are interested in specific kinds of resources, like videos or reclaimer profiles, you can find them in one place under Written Resources and Visual Resources.

Who are reclaimers?

Reclaimers and Waste pickers

Reclaimers are people who earn their living by salvaging recyclable materials from waste and selling them into the recycling value chain. They also salvage reusable materials that they use themselves, sell to others, and make into new products to sell.

What is integration?

The South African Waste Picker Integration Guideline recognises that waste pickers created a highly effective system to collect recyclables. Waste picker integration means that we need to build on that system to develop official recycling programmes appropriate for our context. The Guideline emphasises that integration must improve reclaimers’ incomes, their working conditions, and recycling rates, and that integration includes the economic, social, political, and environmental integration of reclaimers.

A simple way to start separation at source is to ask residents to separate materials for reclaimers and pay the reclaimers for the service they provide.