Waste pickers’ initiative survives eviction attempt

Daniel Friedman

A project which helps 110 people earn a living from recycling, the WastePreneurs NPO, has won an interdict preventing them from being evicted from waste sorting premises on property leased to the Pirates Club in Greenside.

  Pirates Club was forced to send the initiative an eviction notice after the Joburg Property Company (JPC); which leases the property to the sports club; threatened to terminate its lease if they did not remove WastePreneurs.

  Pirates Club manager Non Welsford said while she couldn’t speak on behalf of the club, she is happy that WastePreneurs are allowed to stay.

  She said while the City told them to evict the initiative under a clause in the contract that prevents subletting, the club hadn’t received any money from WastePreneurs, and they therefore saw their granting permission for the initiative to use the waste-sorting premises as involvement in a community project rather than subletting.

  The club shares a wall with the waste sorting facility, which falls under the property they lease, but it has a separate entrance. Pikitup also uses part of the waste-sorting premises.

  Welsford said the City of Joburg is likely acting on complaints from residents, who oppose the waste-picking initiative, but she expressed the view that the waste pickers are just trying to get by, and would not go away if WastePreneurs was evicted.

  “Without WastePreneurs, they’ll start sorting in the park again, it doesn’t make sense. WastePreneurs have invested quite a lot of money to keep waste pickers off the street. They hope to make it a pilot project which can be rolled out in other places,” she said.

  She added that she feels the waste-sorting premises is way enough from private properties. “That’s the reality, it doesn’t affect anyone next door.”

  Pirates club chairperson Lloyd Hanson sent a statement from the club’s stakeholders which suggests they agree with Welsford.

   “This urgent interdict was brought to the court by a group of wastepreneurs whose livelihoods are threatened by moves to have the recycling drop-off at Pirates Club shut down. Although pressured by our landlords, JPC, and the City of Joburg  into serving a 60 day eviction notice to Wastepreneurs, the Club remains of the view that the Wastepreneurs project is of great benefit to individual wastepreneurs, waste management and the community,” the statement says.

  WastePreneurs has released a statement hailing their victory “in the first step against eviction attempts”.

  “It’s a small victory, but an important one in securing the future for an initiative that improves the lives of so many people. The JPC forced the Pirates’ Club to evict the WastePreneurs in order to maintain their lease agreement with the City. This latest ruling, thanks to the stellar pro bono work by Attorneys Sim and Botsi, allows WastePreneurs to keep operating at their current premises in Greenside, an incredibly important outcome for the 110 WastePreneurs who earn their livelihood at the site. The legality of WastePreneurs has never been in question. The court case, in this instance, refers to whether Pirates may, or may not, under the terms of their lease accommodate the WastePreneurs. Waste pickers and their trolleys are a familiar sight on the streets of Johannesburg. Though they do face some critique from residents, most people don’t realise the public service the waste pickers render by ensuring a vast amount of Johannesburg’s recyclable waste is kept out of landfills and transported to recycling depots, daily. The aim of the WastePreneurs initiative is to help formalize the waste picking system and aid some of the people in our society to earn a livelihood for themselves and their families.”

  The WastePreneurs pilot operates from a depot on the premises of Pirates Sports Club in Greenside. They collect waste from various suburbs in northern Johannesburg and transport it to the Pirates WastePreneurs depot, where it is sorted, weighed and sold to recycling businesses.

  Pirates, meanwhile, hopes the matter will be solved amicably and that the City’s attempted cancellation of their lease is overturned.

  JPC spokesperson Zanele Mamba had not responded to questions on the issue by the time of press. Citizen

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