Reclaiming Livelihoods – Mooi River Waste Reclaiming

Creating formal groups of waste pickers for collecting and recycling waste
2010 SEED Award Waste Management Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

Reclaiming Livelihoods is an initiative of former informal waste pickers. Before founding the initiative, waste pickers worked as individuals in the town of Mooi River. With the assistance of the NGO groundWork, the waste pickers of Mooi River organised themselves into a formal group and now work together. The local municipality (Mpofana Municipality) supports the initiative and has granted permission for recycling waste on the landfill. This enables the Reclaiming Livelihoods’ waste pickers to collect recyclables such as cardboard, plastic, glass and paper directly on the landfill. The recyclables are then compressed and sold to larger recycling companies. 

Eco-Inclusive Impacts

This project increases employment opportunities through a formalised waste reclaiming initiative as well as reduces environmental pollution.
  • Increasing job opportunities and income of local people and thereby contributing to poverty alleviation.



  • Improving management of the landfill sites by ensuring constant presence of workers.
  • Reducing pollution by ensuring that toxic materials being deposited on site, fewer fires, less water pollution, and finally increased recycling rates.
  • Creating employment opportunities for the local people (currently employs 25 persons).
  • Supplying recycled materials to the larger recycling companies.



This enterprise is supported through its partnerships with various stakeholders, ranging from national and international organisations, investors, research institutes, suppliers, governmental bodies, NGOs, other social and environmental enterprises and more.

Groundwork, Friends of the Earth assisted in formalising the waste pickers and provide protective clothing.

Mpofana Municipality grants permission to reclaim recycling materials on-site.

Central Waste Paper a recycling company, subsidises technical equipment and buys the recyclables.

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