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Exploring the bottom-end of recycling value-chains: a case study of waste pickers in eThekwini Municipality.

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The bottom-end of global economic value-chains represents some of the harshest working conditions in the world. The aim of this dissertation is to study the bottom-end of recycling value-chains in eThekwini Municipality, focussing specifically on waste pickers, in order to illuminate the role that waste pickers play in the city, and the nature of interactions between them (as part of the informal economy) and formal aspects of the economy. The dissertation finds that waste pickers in eThekwini Municipality make positive contributions to society and should receive more recognition for their efforts. It argues that South Africa does not have a dual economy, but rather one diverse economy which consists of formal and informal activities. These activities sometimes overlap, interact with, and conflict with one another. Given the persistence and growth of the informal sector throughout the global economy, governments and society need to shift their perception and understanding of the informal economy. The informal economy should be perceived as part of the overall economy, and as a positive phenomenon which contributes significantly towards poverty reduction and GDP growth. With this change in perception, the benefits of supporting the informal sector are highlighted, allowing governments to implement measures in the right spaces of the economy to create positive social economic development.


Master of Development Studies. University of KwaZulu-Natal. Durban, 2016.