Case studies

Because each city and town is unique, we cannot assume that an integration programme that works well in one place will be appropriate or work well in another. This is why the Guideline does not present models that can be copied and pasted into new contexts.

Here we share case studies of different approaches to integration that highlight why they were adopted, how they worked, and lessons learned. By providing real world examples, the case studies can spark ideas and discussions about what type of approach and programmes could be appropriate and relevant in your specific context.

The three main case studies are presented first. They focus on paying reclaimers to provide a separation at source collection service, the creation of innovative infrastructure to promote integration, and why landfill waste pickers chose to form a cooperative. The stories of these case studies are told through detailed written overviews, a poster, videos, reclaimer profiles, and photo essays to provide a holistic understanding of each case.

The three shorter case studies look at integrating landfill waste pickers, separation at source by a waste picker cooperative, and the importance of zoning regulations.

Paying reclaimers for a separation at source collection service

This case study focuses on the African Reclaimers Organisation’s Recycling with Reclaimers project in two Johannesburg neighbourhoods. It shows how reclaimers who are not part of a cooperative can be paid for providing a separation at source collection service, and how when integration is based on a partnership between reclaimers and residents it changes residents’ recycling practices and relationships with reclaimers, improves reclaimers’ access to materials, and makes reclaimers part of the community.

Additional resources:

Written Case Study – Separation at source by reclaimers -Johannesburg

Poster – Separation at source and Waste Pickers

Reclaimer profile – Ana Mabe – Organisational support and friendship

Reclaimer profile – Papi Spekhang – Fast Trolleys

Photo story – Living and working in Bekezela

Photo story – Living and working at Bekezela

Photo story – Living and working at Bekezela

Infrastructure for integration

This case study is on the Palmer Street Recycling Facility created by the eThekwini municipality and the NGO Asiye eTafuleni for women waste pickers in Durban. It shows how an NGO, municipality, and waste pickers can collaborate to create much needed infrastructure for street waste pickers.

Additional resources:

Written Case Study – Infrastructure for integration – eThekwini

Photo essay – Palmer street recycling facility

Reclaimer profile – Nthombizodwa Gcabashe – Working with others

Reclaimer profile – Sibongile Muthwa – Professionalizing reclaiming

Photo story – Selling on the streets in Durban

Reclaimer profile – Refiloe and Sfundo – Working on Durban Streets

Video – Palmer Street Recycling Facility – Infrastructure for Reclaimers

Landfill cooperatives

This case study focuses on cooperatives created by waste pickers at the Mangaung Landfill. It explores why they chose to form cooperatives, the ways this has benefitted them, the challenges they face, and their dreams for the future. 

Additional resources:

Written Case Study – Mangaung landfill cooperatives – Mangaung

Photo essay – Northern landfill site

Reclaimer profile – Emily Mrabalalo – Women working for their families

Reclaimer profile – Francelina Lekeno – A roof over her head

Reclaimer profile – Lefa Mononga – A natural leader

Reclaimer profile – Samual Motshwadi – Supporting a family

Reclaimer profile – Solomon Mafabatho – Getting the copper

Integrating landfill waste pickers

These short case studies look at four different efforts to integrate landfill waste pickers, identifying both successes and problems to watch out for.

Additional resources:

Reclaimers & Reclaiming – A typical day of a landfill reclaimer

Reclaimers & Reclaiming – Separation at source and landfill reclaimers

Reclaimers & Reclaiming – Amending landfill licences to permit waste picking

Social Plans for Landfill Waste Pickers

Webinar – Integrating landfill waste pickers

Separation at source by a waste picker cooperative

This case study focuses on the South African Waste Pickers Association’s Vaal Park Recycling Centre integration pilot project. The project includes a waste picker cooperative providing a separation at source collection service, running a drop-off centre, aggregating material, and selling collectively.

Additional resources:

Reclaimer profile – Dorah Mabe – Safe conditions

Reclaimer profile – Simon Ramohlokane – Sorting in a cooperative

Zoning regulations

This case study looks at what happened when a project to support reclaimers in Cape Town clashed with planning regulations, highlighting the importance of institutionalizing waste picker integration within municipal planning processes.