On 5 November 2019, SERI attorney Khululiwe Bhengu presented at the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS)’s conference entitled, “Reclaiming Waste: Exploring Social and Environmental Challenges”. The international conference was held over two days (5-6 November 2019) in Braamfontein, Johannesburg and was attended by approximately 40 people, including reclaimers (often referred to as informal recyclers or waste pickers) from the African Reclaimers Organisation (ARO), social scientists, activists and government officials.
The purpose of the conference was to explore the overlap between the waste crisis and the social struggle of South Africa’s reclaimers, how to handle the millions of tonnes of waste produced by urban dwellers and at the same time ensure that reclaimers receive the recognition they deserve. In her presentation, Khululiwe outlined the statutory and legal framework that regulates reclaimers and the rights they are afforded in the Constitution. Over the two day conference, topics such as reclaimers in urban spaces, resistance, alternatives to waste management and decolonising recycling were explored.