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City of Joburg’s R50-a-month recycling levy is nonsensical

Informal waste pickers already ensure that all items of value are being recycled.
Waste pickers sort recyclables at an abandoned school in the Joburg CBD. Image: Waldo Swiegers, Bloomberg

The City of Joburg (CoJ) wants to charge all “affluent” households a levy of R50 per month from July to fund its separation-at-source recycling programme.

This proposal is part of its tariffs for 2021/2022 tabled in council in late March, with public comments closing on Saturday.

The “mandatory” programme is already in place as a trial in many of the northern suburbs and requires households to separate waste into two bags – a normal black bag and a separate clear bag (provided by the city) for recyclable items that is not placed in the Pikitup bin. These are collected separately by two separate fleets of vehicles.

Rich enough to pay

The draft tariffs propose that “affluent households at various suburbs excluding those located in areas classified as township and informal settlements will be charged additional levy at an amount of R50 per month for all properties with a market value above R350 000”.

A house with a market value of R1 million already pays R235 a month for refuse collection (charges are on a sliding scale ranging from R141 to R368, depending on the value of the property).

This additional levy means that the proposed 4.3% increase in refuse removal charges from July will, in practice, be significantly higher. On a R1 million house, owners will now pay R295 in total (with the new levy and proposed increase) meaning an effective 26% increase in refuse removal charges.

Read: Third time unlucky? CoJ prepaid customers in for tariff surprise

At the high end (properties with a value of over R5 million), the effective increase will be 18% (from R368 to a total of R433). Some have described the new levy as a “stealth tax”.

Problem already solved

The fundamental problem with this plan is that it attempts to address an issue that the market has already solved.

The (likely) tens of thousands of informal waste pickers who weave along the city streets with their trolleys each morning ensure that all recyclable items of value are removed from those clear bags.

These pickers earn a reasonable living (some estimates suggest their income is at least R4 000 a month) and valuable recyclable material (cans, bottles, cardboard and certain plastics like PET) are collected, sorted and then sold to dealers.

One estimate says that waste pickers collect as much as 80% of “post-consumer packaging and paper material”, putting our recycling rate on par with some countries in Western Europe.

What remains, then, are items that are difficult, uneconomical, or impossible to recycle (assuming that households correctly sort material is quite a stretch).

The city is spending a small fortune on contracted service providers who drive special trucks around suburbs to collect noticeably empty bags. From July, the R50 a month levy will fund the initiative.

Heroes without capes

Industry data shows that waste pickers are saving municipalities up to R750 million a year in costs related to landfills. In Joburg, one could easily see this number at around R50 million a year.

Why isn’t the city trying to formalise and work with the waste pickers?

Municipal collection sites could be established (or expanded) to enable the waste pickers to see their material at a better rate than the current informal system surely yields (the city could work with larger recycling entities to purchase this recyclable material in bulk).

This is a far better solution to the current informal system where vacant land (mostly the city’s) is being used by waste pickers to sort their material.

A section of the Braamfontein Spruit near Peter Place has become a small village, with mountains of plastic bottles and cans and dozens of informal dwellings.

On paper, the city’s plan is laudable. It likely made sense in a PowerPoint deck once.

But the implementation of the trial from 2018 was already too late. In 2021, a full rollout is completely nonsensical.

COMMENTS   14

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How to make a fortune. Legislate a mandatory pseudo service and then charge for it better still as it is a service one can also charge VAT on the service. So one now has tax on tax.

One would think that collecting a waste bin from a R200 000.00 house costs the same as collecting a bin from a R10 000 000.00 house? Looks like the City is just looking for money, a way to tax the citizens.
But City of Joburg is not really known for making intelligent decisions, are they?

CoJ being run by ruling Kleptocracy, could one expect anything constructive?

Ironically, waste pickers normally go after the ‘higher value’ plastic that residents put out in the RECYCLING bags and not in the Picktup bins and there is a scheme in place by recycling companies to take away the specific recycling waste.

Therefore all waste is already taken care of and residents already pay far too much for municipal waste removal and do not need to be lumbered with unnecessary waste pickers lively hoods.

Just another form of legalised looting.

These “deployed cadres” should be recycled.

Trying to steal money that will otherwise be spent in the real economy!!!

The anc must disband and the horror must stop. Its like a plague.

When you have a Socialist system they will inevitably take from those who work for it and give it to those who don’t. This government has made millions more DON’Ts!! We all know how socialism ends up. SAD

durban currently works as follows: blue bags R80 pm = for 12 garden refuse bags collected by municipality; free orange bags = for paper/plastics; free clear bags = for glass both collected by a private company & black bags for the rest of home refuse collected by municipality

5+ months ago stopped receiving clear bags – bottles now go into a normal plastic bag – the collectors must now distinguish themselves

the most upsetting part is to pay R80 for 12 garden refuse bags, whilst public areas / parks are brush cutter trimmed / mowed down by ethekwini municipality’s outsourced contractors (maximum 4 times per year) without collecting any of the off cut – attitude is: next rain will take it literally straight down the storm pipe

In Cape Town our extras are:water R104.50, refuse R137.22, sewage R37.16 and electricity service to the prepaid unit R148.88. Total of R427.76 before the actual Rates.

We are one of the few suburbs which has a separate bag for recycling.

More bill stuffing …

But actually, the producers of recyclable products should be levied a tax to include the disposal of their packaging.

Unfortunately the waste pickers need to wash food plastic etc before they can sell it. If households knew this they could wash items before hand and place them in separate bags for the waste pickers and speed up the process.

Glass/paper is heavy so rather use the banks available.

The Reverse Vending Machines are amazing when they work.

I don’t see the City’s roll here. They are approaching this top down from a legislation point of view.

Another way to fleece the middle class upwards.

Why not encourage the pickers by providing them the necessary tools and environmentally friendly areas to do their sorting and trading with the plastic buyers?

Encourage the small guys at the expense of the dodgy back office dealings.

European recycling is not all it makes itself out to be. During my time in the EU, China stopped buying scrap plastic, so it all started going to landfills. Now some countries are incinerating their plastics to generate power. Also, Pyrolysis plants are slowly but surely getting a foothold.

The CoJ is just another criminal syndicate, no different from any of the other municipal crime syndicates, all legislating extortion operations in a bid to accumulate as much loot as possible for the cadres.

All communities must stand up and stop paying these oxygen thieves. Private companies (community organizations) must be setup for each district to deliver a professional service at a reasonable price (e.g. just look at what Afriforum did in the North West). Call them racist or not they do deliver and that is the only thing that should matter.

CoJ putting 8,000 workers out of a job. What kind of logic is that?

End of comments.

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