E’Plazini: A Place to call home for Waste Collectors by Mpumelelo Buthelezi

Carpe Diem Series

Mpumelelo Buthelezi gifts us with this captivating photo of the amazing waste collectors in South Africa! They are out seizing the day with their hard work and help in their community. Take a look and read more about this inspirational job below!

The residents of Devland and Dryhook claiming the mountain to recycle materials, which they have collected during the day rummaging through plastic, sorting glass and crumpling paper. Picture: Mpumelelo Buthelezi/ City Press

Artist Statement:

E’Plazini: A Place to call home for Waste Collectors  

This photo documentary about waste pickers who live in a neighbourhood called Dryhook Informal settlement, Phororo near Devland, Soweto. In South Africa it is estimated that 85,000 people make a living as waste collectors/recyclers. Waste pickers are people who collect and sort waste materials, and sell reusable and recyclable materials (such as paper, cardboard, plastic containers, glass, and metal) primarily in an informal capacity. In particular waste pickers contribute to higher levels of recycling within cities and towns, and help to divert waste from landfills.

These people live by collecting waste material for recycling from all over Soweto for over the last ten years. They recycle their materials in a dumping area daily from 4am in the morning until 4pm, some work weekly and some on a daily basis. Recycle trucks then transport this waste materials to different firms, such as Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. At the recycling company they get R3, 20 per kilogram for plastic containers and empty cans; R1.20 per kilogram for plastic, and R2 per kilogram for cardboard boxes. They make about R40, on a good day, R60 and R200 weekly.


Mpumelelo Buthelezi-a photographer born and bred in Pimville, Soweto

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