Jeanette Sihlangu’s story
The garden outside Jeanette Sihlangu’s home is full of plastic waste collected on the streets of the townships of Cape Town, South Africa. Jeanette, 67 years old, is one of the 1,500 informal gatherers who sell recyclable waste to Blues Sky Recycling, a social enterprise hosted on the grounds of the Cesvi House of Smiles in Philippi, one the of largest townships surrounding the city.
Jeanette has two children and four grandchildren; they receive a state subsidy, but it isn’t enough to help the family through. So, to top it up, Jeanette started selling recyclable waste to trucks on their way to recycling companies. But while she was turning to intermediaries and occasional buyers, the revenue was low, unfair and unfriendly.
A neighbor advised her to try out Blue Sky Recycling: “There, the collectors get a fairer price for their work; a receipt is issued for every load of recyclables you deliver and it corresponds to a set number of credits, which can be redeemed once a week. Blue Sky then compacts all the waste purchased and then sells it to the recycling companies”.
Since discovering Blue Sky, Jeanette has earned revenues ranging from 600 to 100 Rands (about 36 to 60 Euros respectively). “With this money I can buy food for my family and pay the insurance fee for my funeral. So when I leave this World, my children can redeem what they need for the funeral service.”
Thanks to the entry of Blues Sky into the Fair Plastic Alliance which includes Serioplast, Cesvi, Oxfam and other basic cooperatives, Jeanette’s earnings are set to increase: the Alliance aims to transform the plastic supply chain by making it more fair, inclusive and sustainable, so that even informal gatherers can benefit from adequately paid work.
c) Story by Valentina Prati, Cesvi Onlus