Finding Treasure In Trash

Plastic containers that people throw away, Mme Amelia Nhlapo (50) of Lufhereng uses to feed her family. At least, twice a week she scavenges for the containers from dustbins that home owners put on the streets for collection by refuse collectors. She sells them to recyclers in Roodepoort.

Mme Nhlapo is a single mother. She has two children aged 24, 14 and a 9-year-old grandchild. She competes with few women and mainly young men whose bodies can still carry them around with ease. Mme Nhlapo was diagnosed with arthritis when was working as a domestic worker. She was operated on both knees. Doctors will perform another operation on her shoulder joint soon.

Despite this impediment, Mme Nhlapo soldiers on. “This is not a glamorous job, but I don’t want my family to starve. The money that my daughter earns is a little,” she says. “I could not watch other women work, because I was afraid of what would people say,” Mme Nhlapo continues.

Huge sacks filled with empty bottles and plastic containers occupy much space in her yard. They await collectors who will deliver them for recycling. A kilogram of plastic containers pays around R3, 50. Also, transport people take their share.

Mme Nhlapo’s daughter dropped out of school at Grade 9. “I could not afford her school fees, uniform and other needs.” Her daughter interjects: “My mother was homebound and sick. I had to take care of her. I was a mother and father of the house.” She says she wants to complete matric but her awkward working hours are failing her.

Write a Comment

view all comments

Only registered users can comment.