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Reg. No: 2007/228482/23

Office: 961 Oudtshoorn Street, Wingate Park, Pretoria
Phone: 082 441-3773
Email: recycling@greenoasis.co.za
Web: www.greenoasis.co.za

White Paper May 2011

A formal approach to landfill recycling

A formal approach to successful recycling on landfills

By Andile V. Mahlangu
Reg. No: 2007/228482/23
Office: 961 Oudtshoorn Street, Wingate Park, Pretoria
Phone: 082 441-3773
Email: recycling@greenoasis.co.za
Web: www.greenoasis.co.za

White Paper May 2011

Copyright information

Copyright 2011, Qobo Recycling CC. Please feel free to distribute this document to anyone who wants to
learn more about landfill recycling.
Reg. No: 2007/228482/23
Office: 961 Oudtshoorn Street, Wingate Park, Pretoria
Phone: 082 441-3773
Email: recycling@greenoasis.co.za
Web: www.greenoasis.co.za

White Paper May 2011

An introduction to Qobo Recycling CC

Qobo Recycling CC was formed in 2007 by Andile and Zomi Mahlangu after having identified the
opportunity to purchase and resell valuable recyclable waste from Gartskloof landfill in Tshwane and to
then resell these commodities to major recycling companies in Gauteng. After the initial success of
setting up our first operation the insatiable need for recyclables by our clients (recycling companies) led
us to expanding our operation to other major landfills in Tshwane. Our dealings with various types of
recyclable waste plastic, paper, scrap metal and electronic waste and operation on various landfills has
lead to us amassing a great deal of knowledge on the recycling industry from the ground up.

To find out more about Qobo Recycling please visit www.greenoasis.co.za

Background: Waste management and landfill recycling

There threat posed to our environment by bad waste management practices, grand consumption and
bad environmental practices of industry has led to the development of policies and regulations by both
global and local stakeholders to safeguard the environment from any further damage. Solutions that
have been put on the table have been put there to merely decelerate the process of degradation that is
being caused by an ever expanding global population that is resource hungry and wasteful.

Recycling is a knee-jerk solution to the problem of waste, limited resources, energy costs and the
constant spewing of carbon emissions by industry, but a much-needed solution nonetheless.

Landfills have been and continue to be the most effective solution to deal with waste disposal, every
year millions of tons of waste are being dumped on landfills around the country waste that stems from
households and organisations. What most people have been oblivious to till recent times is that a great
deal of the waste that is dumped on landfills can be salvaged for recycling purposes and for many years
now there are people who each and every day serve just this purpose, which is the salvaging of valuable
recyclable waste from the piles and piles of waste which is disposed of in landfills every day.

Landfills have become economic hubs of the 20th-21st century, landfills are market-places teeming with
individuals and businesses who are making a living off what most of us may view as merely trash-
smelly, icky, and invaluable? Those people who chase down your car as you about to offload your
“trash” nuisances you think why are they hassling me? Well were you seeing trash they see valuable
resources that recycling companies pay for in hard cash or an asset that can be reused or resold for
Reg. No: 2007/228482/23
Office: 961 Oudtshoorn Street, Wingate Park, Pretoria
Phone: 082 441-3773
Email: recycling@greenoasis.co.za
Web: www.greenoasis.co.za

White Paper May 2011

Given the fact that every landfill has its own unique operational status-quo and there is no one-size
fits all solution, I will make the assumption that a formal recycling programme is to be implemented
on a landfill that is densely populated by waste pickers with no co-ordination of the waste pickers and
no infrastructure established for formal recycling.


Identifying the stakeholders

An effective and efficient solution to formalising the recycling process on landfills can only be achieved
by identifying the stakeholders of such a project and clearly defining the role that they play within the
recycling chain.

The stakeholders that are pivotal to the successful implementation of a landfill recycling programme

• Waste Pickers- These are the people who salvage recyclables from the landfill.
• Landfill Management team- Oversees the overall management of the landfill.
• Local Government, Municipality- Regulates, manages and offers services that are related to waste
management. Municipalities are the authority on landfill matters and provide resources to residents
of a community with regards social welfare and economic development.
• Recycling Companies- Those entities or individuals that buy recyclables from the landfill for
reprocessing or resell to re-processors.

Other stakeholders would include:

• Households & Business- Residents who dump their waste on their respective landfills
• Private Waste management companies- Collect waste and dump it on the landfills
• Recycling industry associations- Represent the interests of recyclers in respective commodities
• Government- Writes and promulgates the laws that govern waste management (i.e.Waste
management act of 2008)

In this paper I will be dealing mainly with the key stakeholders.

Reg. No: 2007/228482/23
Office: 961 Oudtshoorn Street, Wingate Park, Pretoria
Phone: 082 441-3773
Email: recycling@greenoasis.co.za
Web: www.greenoasis.co.za

White Paper May 2011

The makings of a formalised recycling system on landfills

Operations Plan

The operation plan will outline the key deliverables that will ensure that the recycling operation can get
started and is successful it will touch on infrastructure development, human resources & human capital
development and the role of recycling companies in the recycling operation.

Infrastructure development

To facilitate the sorting, packaging and transportation of recyclables an investment would have to be
made on the infrastructure development, items that will be essential to running an efficient, effective
and value-adding operation will include.

Key infrastructure:

• Development of a location within the landfill where recyclables can be offloaded and consolidated
for easy pick-up by buyers (recyclers).
o The area should be fenced off
o Clearly demarcated
o Allow for storage of various recyclables
o Recyclables would be stored at the location according to their types
• A corrugated iron steel structure should be developed that can be used to house a baling machine
and water sensitive recyclables such as paper.
• A storage area for all tools and equipment is needed.
• A front-end loader for pushing recyclables into position for baling (depending on scale of operation).

Other infrastructure:

• Large platform scales located at the consolidation area for the weighing of waste-pickers recyclables.
• Office for recycling operation (supervisor/manager and support team).
• Waste picker facilities
o Ablution facilities for waste-pickers (Near to where waste-pickers pick recyclables)
o Changing rooms for waste pickers

Key equipment

• A baling machine to compact the recyclables for greater economies of scale.

• Weighbridge for the weighing in and out of trucks that come to collect/purchase recyclables.
• Forklifts are required to carry heavy bags and load bales.
Reg. No: 2007/228482/23
Office: 961 Oudtshoorn Street, Wingate Park, Pretoria
Phone: 082 441-3773
Email: recycling@greenoasis.co.za
Web: www.greenoasis.co.za

White Paper May 2011

• Truck for the transportation of recyclables on-site from the waste tipping/sorting areas to
consolidation areas.

Other equipment and resources

• Maintenance Tools
• Skip bins and containers for storage and transportation of loose recyclables
• Office equipment
• Waste picking tools
• Protective clothing

Human Resources

Waste pickers are essential to the successful running of a landfill recycling operation as recycling is a
highly labour intensive operation that requires a real hands-on approach. Waste-pickers knowledge of
what recyclers want is pivotal to the operation. Just like any other formal business operation in order
for it to be a success proper management has to be put in place, people with management skills are
essential to creating a well co-ordinated and sustainable operation.

Waste Pickers

Waste pickers are the key denominator in the whole recycling operation; they provide the manpower
and knowledge needed to ensure that the operation is successful. Waste pickers offer the following

• Salvaging recyclables waste from general waste which is not recyclable.

• Sorting of salvaged recyclables according to types of recyclables (paper, plastic, metal, e-waste).
• Bagging of sorted recyclable waste, so that when buyers come and purchase/collect waste the waste
is ready for reprocessing.

Management Team

The management team should comprise of individuals that have a keen understanding of the recycling
industry and are sympathetic to the conditions under which waste-pickers are working in. They should
provide the managerial expertise required to co-ordinate the overall recycling program on the landfill.
The management team should offer the following value-add:

• Attract the resources required to implement a successful recycling operation.

• Co-ordination of waste-pickers to ensure an effective and efficient recycling operation.
• Engage recycling companies on possibilities of them lending their expertise and resources to the
recycling operation on the landfill.
Reg. No: 2007/228482/23
Office: 961 Oudtshoorn Street, Wingate Park, Pretoria
Phone: 082 441-3773
Email: recycling@greenoasis.co.za
Web: www.greenoasis.co.za

White Paper May 2011

• Engaging the municipality (local government authority) on matters affecting the recycling operation
on the landfill and further the motivation of households and businesses to sort their recyclable
waste at source.
• Managing and supervising the entire recycling operation on the landfill setting the vision, drawing up
action plans and implementing them, keeping records of stats and figures that will assist in the
proper planning and development of the operation.

Human Capital Development

In order to create sustainable operation a lot of investment has to be made in human capital, this
investment will ensure that all human resources are geared towards performing their respective tasks

Waste Pickers


Waste pickers should be provided with the training and education required to ensure they will be able
to be productive in they’re work.

Health and wellness

Landfills are really harsh environments dust. Waste-pickers everyday are faced with piles and piles of
waste that could be detrimental to their health and live in conditions which are not ideal for human
occupation; facilities should be established to ensure that workers are able to practice good personal
hygiene. Workers should be made aware of the dangers they face in the work they do.

Socio & Socio-economic issues

Waste-pickers should be provided with support in the form of counselling and education on matters
related to personal financial management, alcoholism, unsafe sexual practices-HIV/AIDS issues etc.

Management Team


The management team should become skilled in running a recycling operation.

SHEQ (Safety, Health, Environment & Quality Management)

It is the prerogative of management to implement an all encompassing SHEQ policy and to ensure
adherence to by all occupants of the landfill, management reports should be compiled constantly on
matters related to SHEQ.
Reg. No: 2007/228482/23
Office: 961 Oudtshoorn Street, Wingate Park, Pretoria
Phone: 082 441-3773
Email: recycling@greenoasis.co.za
Web: www.greenoasis.co.za

White Paper May 2011

The role of recycling companies

Just as waste-pickers are pivotal to the ongoing salvaging of recyclables waste from landfills, there
would be no salvaging if demand didn’t come from recycling companies. Recycling companies are the
most critical component of landfill recycling.

It is therefore an imperative of landfill management to engage these companies on an ongoing basis on

matters related to the starting or the formalising of a recycling operation on landfills.

Recycling companies offer the following value-add:

• A market for recyclables salvaged from landfills

• Expertise on what waste can be recycled
• Purchase, collection and transportation of recyclables from the landfill
• Equipment providers in the form of skip bins and containers for collection of recyclables and scales
for weighing of recyclables.
• Human resources in the form of employees who weigh and manage the quality of recyclables
purchased from waste-pickers.

The management of the landfill can further engage the recycling companies on what other resources
they can afford to the recycling operation, for instance a recycling company can loan a baling machine to
the landfill to ensure that the recycling company’s trucks collect larger loads per trip or provide
management expertise.

The economics of a formal landfill recycling operation

A formal recycling operation requires a substantial capital investment for the development of
operations: Infrastructure, Human resources, Equipment etc.

A key decision has to be made by the authorities of landfill which is the landfill management and
municipality as to the status of the operation- whether it will be a profit driven operation or a purely
social development operation.

The main income will be derived from the reselling of salvaged recyclables. Recycling companies might
be keen to invest in the project if they are given favourable terms in the purchase of recyclables. Major
costs will be labour, transportation and electricity.
Reg. No: 2007/228482/23
Office: 961 Oudtshoorn Street, Wingate Park, Pretoria
Phone: 082 441-3773
Email: recycling@greenoasis.co.za
Web: www.greenoasis.co.za

White Paper May 2011

Risks and Challenges

Every venture comes with its own risks and challenges; one must not make the mistake of
underestimating the risks and challenges that will be faced in formalising a recycling operation on a

Some of the key challenges faced will be related to mobilisation and co-ordination of the waste-pickers
and the investment in operational development. Formal landfill recycling is a fairly new concept and
great hurdles will have to be overcome to make the operation run like clock-work.

Risk and Challenges: Waste-pickers

The greatest challenge faced in the operation is the proper control and co-ordination of waste-pickers;
this will especially be made difficult in a scenario where there are a great number of waste-pickers on
the landfill.

Illegal squatters on landfills create a lot of risk for the recycling venture:

• They create an environment that is threatening to people who come to the landfill to dispose of
their waste. In some instances there are issues of theft and conflict between dumpers and
squatters/informal waste pickers.
• They become the responsibility of the landfill’s management by default as they are occupants of the
• Landfills can house a great number of criminals, illegal immigrants and other unsavoury characters,
as on most landfills a proper account of who is squatting and picking on the landfill is not done.
Formal Identification of all individuals who enter the landfill is in some landfills not necessary.
• There is a great deal of social issues, with rampant alcoholism, violence, theft, health risks faced by
waste pickers digging through waste for recyclables etc.
• Illegal squatters on landfills can pose a serious criminal risk the surrounding communities as some
individuals steal from surrounding households and sell their wares on the landfill where proof of
ownership becomes an issue to verify, with a densely populated squatting community on the landfill
it’s hard to identify these criminals and also it is equally hard to stolen goods. There are great
number of people who come to landfills to purchase re-useable goods meaning that stolen goods
have a steady market.
Reg. No: 2007/228482/23
Office: 961 Oudtshoorn Street, Wingate Park, Pretoria
Phone: 082 441-3773
Email: recycling@greenoasis.co.za
Web: www.greenoasis.co.za

White Paper May 2011

Risks and Challenges: Operational development

The infrastructure required to develop a formal recycling program can be quite costly for instance a
large scale baling machine can cost in the region of R100 000.00 upward maintenance costs and the fact
that some machinery is best imported means that pursuing a recycling venture would require one to
have access to substantial capital. Other things such as building structures for the operation will also
require a substantial investment.

Human resources and human capital development would require continuous attention in the form of
investment and in time, money and expertise. In order the operation to function accordingly waste
pickers, the landfill management team and other key employees on the landfill need to be managed in a
manner in which they will be able to excel at their respective duties this is should be a constant and well
planned process.

Recyclable buyers are another element of the landfill recycling process that can be a risk and pose
certain challenges for the landfill recycling project:

• Buyers are normally not known by landfill management, some come and go depending on whether
market prices for commodities are on the up or on the low,
• They do not account for how much recyclables they take from the landfill, which is an issue when it
comes to auditing landfills.
• Buyers may create demand for certain recyclables based on them paying premium prices for a
certain commodity which is in great demand by them leading to the cannibalisation of other
commodities which are not financially lucrative for waste pickers relative to the other commodity.
• Buyers are not regulated meaning that some buyers don’t have licences to handle waste or to
operate as scrap dealers/recyclers also buyers can exploit waste-pickers by paying them way below
market prices for commodities.

Other risks and challenges:

Municipal challenges from one perspective landfills somewhat deal with the issue of unemployment as
waste pickers and small scale recyclables buyers create employment for themselves, lessening the
burden on the municipality to create job opportunities for a greater number of people.

Waste pickers: The formalisation of landfill recycling would require some waste-pickers to be removed
from the landfill so as to promote efficiency and control in the project and also to remove “undesirable”
characters this could lead to loss of jobs for a lot of people thus putting a burden on the municipality to
create more job opportunities, provide greater law enforcement and monitoring of the landfill.
Recyclables buyers: The same also applies to small scale unlicensed recyclables buyers if regulations,
Reg. No: 2007/228482/23
Office: 961 Oudtshoorn Street, Wingate Park, Pretoria
Phone: 082 441-3773
Email: recycling@greenoasis.co.za
Web: www.greenoasis.co.za

White Paper May 2011

according to municipal by-laws, were to be enforced a lot of the buyers would have to be removed and
stopped from operating on landfills also for the landfill management to gain better control of it
operation would be required to limit who is allowed to buy recyclables from the landfill. Loss of income
is the by-product of enforcing these policies.

Sorting of recyclables on landfills poses a major problem as most of the waste dumped is not pre-sorted
and in most cases is compacted by waste trucks. This means that food waste, general waste, garden
waste and recyclables can all be in one big compacted bunch, the problems with this is contamination of
recyclables some recyclables that have been badly contaminated cannot be re-processed.
Contaminated recyclables that can be re-processed hold less value as they have to be washed first.

Key summary of key risks and challenges:

• Unrestricted access of landfills by both waste-pickers and buyers

• No identification of landfill occupants (buyers and waste-pickers)
• No auditing of how much recyclables leave the landfill
• Infrastructure development
• Social challenges
• Create unemployment/loss of income for waste pickers and buyers
• Loss of income and jobs through formalisation
• Burden on the municipality to enforce by-laws and general national laws.

Mitigation of risks and challenges:

Waste pickers:

Formalising the workforce could go a long way in running a successful landfill recycling project; this is
not a simple process but can be achieved by incentivising waste-pickers to buy into a more formal
approach to their work. One has to approach this in the sense that these individuals essentially
determine their own fate, everyday they write they own cheque and thus have achieved and are
accustomed to a great deal of autonomy. So the question they can pose to someone looking to
formalise or help them is, what can you do that I cannot do for myself?

• Better working conditions:

o Provision of safety wear and waste-picking equipment.
o Better facilities to operate in with access to basic infrastructure such as ablution facilities and
changing rooms (every human being requires to be treated with some dignity and is
appreciative of that).
Reg. No: 2007/228482/23
Office: 961 Oudtshoorn Street, Wingate Park, Pretoria
Phone: 082 441-3773
Email: recycling@greenoasis.co.za
Web: www.greenoasis.co.za

White Paper May 2011

o Access to resources such as on-site transportation of their recyclables to pick-up points,

landfill recycling is break-backing work.
o Access to social support services and educational development can be sourced for waste-
pickers by management of the landfill recycling program.
o Most individuals on landfill has a certain skill they can offer to the operation, a skills audit
along with skills development and harnessing program can ensure that valuable skills are
retained for the project.

Solution: Some landfills have a group of waste-pickers that look after the interests of other waste-
pickers; essentially this group of waste pickers form a committee. A “committee” determines who can
become a waste-picker and who can buy recyclables from the landfill, a lot of influence can be wielded
by the “committee” these individuals who are normally the “elders” of the landfill can become a great
ally to the formalising of the recycling operation.

Recyclables buyers:

Some of the recyclables buyers are large recycling companies that have an abundance of resources in
the form of equipment, infrastructure and knowledge of recycling operations. They can be engaged to
provide their support for the formalising of the recycling operation they’re support can be easier to
achieve as they have a vested interest in a successful recycling operation on the landfill and can provide
the resources required to get the project up and running.

Solution: To gain greater control over the buyers accessing recyclables and landfills a database of the
recyclers should be created, access control should ensure that buyer’s ins and outs are monitored. To
collect statistics on what recyclables their collecting there should be a pre-arranged agreement of what
recyclables they will collect, weighbridges that are present at most landfills should be used to weigh the
recyclables they take out from the landfill.

Operational development

All stakeholders should be engaged to discern which role they can play in operational development
access to funding from “local economic development agencies”, “corporate social investment”,
“national enterprise development agencies”, and “public private partnerships” etc. Various avenues
should be explored for financing the operation. Skills and commitment offered by all key stakeholders is
the key to ensuring a project like this succeeds.

Solution: Draw up a formal business plan for the operation and treat it just as any regular business
venture, this will ensure that you test the viability of the model used for the operation and help in
attracting funding for the venture.
Reg. No: 2007/228482/23
Office: 961 Oudtshoorn Street, Wingate Park, Pretoria
Phone: 082 441-3773
Email: recycling@greenoasis.co.za
Web: www.greenoasis.co.za

White Paper May 2011

Municipality & Public institutions

Landfills are a microcosm of the greater challenges that are faced by a number of communities’ at large
issues such as unemployment, job creation, crime and other social challenges. A lot can be achieved on
landfills to meet some of the priorities set-out by government. Municipalities can provide social support
services, entrepreneurial support, enforcement of environmental regulations, law enforcement etc. All
this will go a long way in ensuring that there is an understanding of the greater challenges faced by
communities. The municipalities’ endorsement of such project will ensure that great strides are made in
improving the lives of its residents.

A programme can be implemented to train small scale recyclables buyers and educate them on matters
related to waste management and compliance with regulations that govern environmental management
and becoming a recycler.

Solution: The DTI has indentified recycling as one of the key industries that will create jobs such
institutions should be engaged on what project they are currently running with regards the recycling
industry, proposals should also be submitted to them with ideas. The Sector Educations and Training
Associations (SETA’s) can funding for skills development of waste-pickers, small scale recyclables buyers
and the management of the recycling landfill project.

Other Solution: Certain associations can be engaged to provide their expertise on how to handle
matters related to waste management and recycling there are quite a number of them: “Institute of
Waste Management South Africa” “Paper Recycling Association of South Africa” (PRASA), “PET recycling
company” (PETCO), “Metal Recyclers Association” (MRA), “Electronic Waste South Africa” etc.

Sorting of recyclables

Landfills can be turned into renewable environments with the proper infrastructure energy can be
harvested from landfills. Sorting of recyclables prior to them reaching the landfill and once again at the
landfill will ensure that much more recyclables are salvaged from waste being thrown away and dumped
at landfills.

Landfills create jobs whether you like it a not taking recyclables to landfills could lead to job loss on
larger landfills the impact could be dire. The solution should be to make recycling operations on landfills
that much more efficient and effective. There isn’t much of a difference between most recycling buy-
back centres and landfill operations except for infrastructure, equipment, human resources
management and general management provided by buy-back centres. Landfills can also set-up these
elements in their operation.
Reg. No: 2007/228482/23
Office: 961 Oudtshoorn Street, Wingate Park, Pretoria
Phone: 082 441-3773
Email: recycling@greenoasis.co.za
Web: www.greenoasis.co.za

White Paper May 2011

Solution: Landfills are normally based close to communities (households and businesses) a project can
be piloted in a certain part of a suburb to test the viability of separating recyclables by households and
businesses from their food waste and non-recyclable waste.

• Households and business have two bins, one is for mixed recyclables (plastic, paper, cans, tetrapak,
polystyrene etc.) the other is for food waste and non-recyclable waste.
• On a certain day the mixed recyclables are collected
• Different containers are set-up at the landfill for the placing of the various types of recyclables after
they have been sorted again at the landfill by workers. Other containers that can be included are
metal and e-waste.
• The community should be encouraged to come and drop-off sorted recyclables at the landfill
containers. This will serve in teaching households on how to sort their recyclables.

This is a fantastic way of starting the process of formalising landfill recycling that involves the greater

*Projects such as these can be linked to “materials recycling facilities” and are more common overseas a
few projects are being implemented locally.


Recycling on landfills can create a great number of jobs and add some dignity to the work done by
waste-pickers; successful recycling on landfills can be achieved if all stakeholders work together and all
activities related to the recycling process are well co-ordinated. In achieving a landfill based recycling
program one does not have to “re-invent the wheel” as there are a number of projects that are either
running or being piloted both locally and overseas with varying success, expert advice can be sourced
locally from entities that are involved in recycling in a particular region or town this will help in
contextualising the issues that are to be tackled.