Category Archives: Dust & Environmental Hygiene Info

A Review of the Working Conditions and Health Status of Waste Pickers at Some Landfill Sites in the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality

Waste Pickers

Available online at

Pelagia Research Library

Advances in Applied Science Research, 2017, 8(3):89-96
ISSN : 0976-8610
Pelagia Research Library 89

A Review of the Working Conditions and Health Status of Waste Pickers at Some Landfill Sites in the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality, South Africa

Mathema Mothiba, Shadung J Moja and Chris Loans
Department of Environmental Sciences, Florida Campus, University of South Africa, Florida, South Africa
Sustainable Resources and Environment Competency, Council of Geoscience, 280 Pretoria Street, Silverton, Pretoria, 0001, South Africa
DustWatch, P.O. Box 1810, Sun Valley 7985, South Africa


Waste management is a global phenomenon and a challenge to all nations. There is a need to ensure that waste is handled in an environmental friendly and healthy manner. In South Africa, the last stage of the life cycle of waste is at the landfill sites, which are normally on the outskirts of town and away from communities because of their release of harmful pollutants. As in other developing countries, there are people who try to make a living by engaging in waste picking at the landfill sites. This study researched on working conditions and health status of waste pickers working at some landfill sites in the City of Tshwane metropolitan Municipality; namely Ga-Rankuwa, Onderstepoort and Hatherley. The study used a multi-method approach, where both qualitative and quantitative factors of research were utilized. The results from the 176 waste pickers in the survey showed that 43% believed that their illnesses were work related, while 34% said they were not ill at all. About 19% of the waste pickers in the survey believed their
illnesses were not work related. Their working conditions remain undesirable, but their work serves as their main source of survival. Waste pickers at landfill sites are aware of the risks of working at the landfill sites especially in inhuman working conditions. There is therefore a need to facilitate improvement in their working conditions and raise awareness on their health status.

Keywords: Waste pickers, Landfill site, Working conditions, Health status, Waste management
Disposal of solid waste at a landfill site is the primary disposal method used in South Africa, as in most developing countries [1,2]. According to Godfrey and Oelofse [3], in the past, solid waste was deemed something to be discarded, and without any value, but this however, recently changed. Lately, municipality waste produced from residential and commercial sources, has become an economic resource for other people. Solid waste that is not well-handled can however, pose serious environmental and health risks, with negative implications to human life and environmental sustainability [4]. Landfill sites release a wide range of harmful pollutants such as leachate, gases and particulate matter that have the potential to cause human illness and contamination of the soil, air and bodies of water [5].

In South Africa, many landfill sites practice waste picking. Usually poor people resort to picking in order to earn a living and typically do so under unhealthy and unsafe conditions. For some individuals and families, waste picking has become a way of survival and the activities of waste pickers fall within the informal economy. Waste pickers collect materials discarded as waste and add value to them by sorting, cleaning and at times altering the physical shape to facilitate transport or by combining material to make commercially viable products. The health and safety risks associated with informal recycling include occupational health risks posed to waste pickers and community health risks posed to the public. The nature of the work waste pickers are involved in exposes them to potential pathogenic bio aerosols that may lead to spreading of various diseases. Waste pickers are at risk of exposure to diseases as they come into direct contact with decomposed, highly mixed waste streams with organic material [6].

The use of heavy machinery in landfill operations also poses a risk to waste pickers and could become a risk factor when salvaging on landfill sites. The primary aim of this research was to identify the health status and document the working conditions of waste pickers working at three landfill sites in the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality. Considering that solid waste can be a resource used to provide employment opportunities, it is necessary to educate people, especially waste pickers on good waste management practices. Researchers have noted that little attention is given to the human health risks to which waste pickers are exposed to [7-10]. As much as it is understandable that waste pickers earn a living
from this practice and at one site in the study (Hatherley), living in close proximity to the landfill site, they are creating a security problem and liability for the management of the site.

The distinguishing characteristic of the work life of waste pickers is that they are not paid in an institutionalised or regulated manner for the waste they collect [11]. Waste pickers are involved in an informal activity that is unregulated, labor-intensive, requiring low technological skills and pays very low wages [12]. Since waste picking is unregulated, those involved in it usually become victims of labor exploitation by recycling companies or their intermediaries. Waste pickers target mostly landfill sites since large volumes of waste are deposited onto the landfill sites. Once the waste disposal trucks offload, waste pickers rush to search and remove the recyclables of interest before the waste is compacted. Waste pickers work in conditions that are physically taxing as they work for long periods in the sun, carry their recycled materials and have little time to rest.


Study area background

The City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality (CTMM) was established in 2005 and when founded was made up of 13 former city and town councils. The incorporation of Metsweding District Municipality in 2011 added a significant amount of rural and semi-urban area to Tshwane’s eastern boundary. The City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality’s area increased from 2 198 km² in 2010 to 6 368 km² after the incorporation of Metsweding. The CTMM has a population of approximately 2.9 million people which is made up of 911 536 households as determined through the 2011 Census [13].

Landfill sites

CTMM has 10 landfill sites (of which five are operational and five are closed). The actual annual volume of waste disposed to landfill in the Tshwane area alone (i.e., excluding Metsweding) was estimated at 1 443 290 m³ in 2011 (Statistics provided by CTMM’s Operations officials).

Now according to CTMM landfill operations manager out of the five operational sites, the smaller sites, which are Soshanguve, Ga-Rankuwa and Bronkhorstspruit, received between 14,000 and 18,000 tons of waste per month while the two larger sites, Hatherley and Onderstepoort received between 150 000 and 250 000 tons of waste per month. The biggest challenge was the lack of waste information data at all the sites. There is no comprehensive database overlying management information systems in place to produce reliable data and management information, and there are no weighing bridges at the sites. This study was undertaken at three landfill sites in Tshwane Municipality and below is their coordinates and short description.

Ga-Rankuwa landfill site
The landfill site is surrounded by township to north and south with coordinates 25°34 ’57” S; 27° 59′ 05″ E.
Onderstepoort landfill site
The landfill site is surrounded by major transport links railway line as well as nature reserves with coordinates
25°39’02″S; 28°09’07″E.
Hatherley landfill site
The landfill site is very close to township and there is a new development around the site with coordinates 25°44’26″S;

Activities on different sites

Salvaging of waste for recycling takes place on site and according to the waste pickers’ committee at that site, there are 56 waste pickers on site who come on a daily basis to sort from the site. The site is less than 5 km from a residential area
The site is not fenced but there is some kind of order on site. There is recycling taking place on site, which is rather organized. According to the waste pickers committee, 256 waste pickers work on the site. They have divided themselves into groups to work on certain weekends but during the week, they all come.
There are many waste pickers at this site because it is the largest site and when Kwaggasrand landfill site closed, more waste pickers chose to go to this site. According to the waste pickers’ committee, there are between 500 and 600 waste pickers on site. The large number of waste pickers on site has led to many challenges and at the site the researcher only managed to work with two cooperatives of waste pickers and not all waste pickers were involved.

For the full report, please view the PDF document – Mathema Mothiba Published article

Fog Dust Suppression


Fog Dust Suppression

Vehicle Exhaust Emission Control for Gas and PM10 Particles

 Vehicle Exhaust Emission Control for Gas and PM10 Particles

PM10 and PM2.5 definition

PM10 and PM2.5 Definition

The subset point is worth remembering.  The simplistic definition is probably a good idea for public forums but this could lead to problems if things get a bit technical.  D50 and aerodynamic diameter need to be considered when getting technical about PM2.5 and PM10 particulate, not to mention the density of the particles being considered.


Overburden Blast – Blasting During Low Wind Conditions

Overburden Blast – Blasting During Low Wind Conditions

Wind Speed during a blast will significantly increase the movement of the the dust particles below a D50 of 30 Micron. Other factors will be the temperature and the humidity during the blast so time of day for the blasting is also an important variable to consider.

Mine Blast 60m From Digger – Dust Movement during a blast

Mine Blast 60m From Digger – Dust Movement during a blast

The Use of Noise Dosimeters in the Workplace

The Use of Noise Dosimeters in the Workplace

Some more information about noise dosimetry.

Sound level meter – Wiki Information

Sound level meter

This site has lots of great information on noise

Noise Monitoring and Respirable Dust Training

DustWatch cc will be doing Training in Somerset West on the 14th of August for Occupational Noise monitoring and Environmental noise monitoring.

Respirable Dust Monitoring and other occupational hygiene topics will be discussed.

______________________ Extract of Material_____

5.1 82 OR 85_dBA
As mentioned above it is easy enough to decide on a value and then call it something, but as soon as the term ‘significant risk’ is attached then there is an onus to prove the significance of the risk that as far as we are aware cannot be done. The value up to which there is no significant incidence of noise induced hearing loss in a worker spending a working period of 30 years in a fixed set of circumstances has been established world wide and accepted as 85 dBA. With this having been established there is little moral justification for considering a value lower than 85 dBA unless this is called something else.
The oft-quoted argument that noise induced hearing loss is on the increase in South Africa and this justifies a lowering of the value also has little substance, as this is not happening elsewhere and thus we must conclude that the South African fault must surely lie not in the working conditions but rather the extramural activities. If this is a generalised case then dropping the work related exposure rating from 85 dBA to 82 dBA will not compensate one iota and in fact now starts to infringe on the rights of the employer who should not have to drop his noise levels in order to dilute the levels being experienced at home or on the worker’s way to and from home and work. Noting 82 dBA as an action level is a good idea and one that all authorities can support.
The DME and DOL are also suggesting that noise areas should show continuous improvement from year to year. This is really a good idea and annual determinations will indicate any improvement or deterioration. The department of Labour argument that this should be considered only every second year extends the areas of risk to an unacceptable extent and it can be pointed out that an exposure of only 86 dBA on a continuous basis will almost guarantee an indication of hearing loss of a permanent nature in about a year.

5.5 Environmental Noise Report
With the enactment of the National Environmental Management: Air quality act the clamp down on Environmental Pollution is likely to precipitate a move towards application of the noise regulations with regard to affected communities.
Application of the new SANS 10103 – 2004 is to be welcomed in part as the limits make sense and are more achievable. The present Provincial Legislation is to be brought in line with the National NEMAQA– 2004 which brings SANS 10103 into contention.

5.5.1 New Legislation Principles
The NEPA Section 31 (1) stipulates that national standards can be prescribed

(a) “For the control of noise, either in general or by specific machinery or activities or in places or areas; or

(b) For determining –
(i) A definition of noise, and
(ii) The maximum levels of noise.”

Section 31 (2)

“When controlling noise the provincial and local spheres of government are bound by any prescribed national standards”
This contrasts to Air Pollution where the National, Provincial and Local governments can set standards providing that those set by the Province and Local authorities need to be more stringent or at least the same as National Standards.
This in relation to the Noise requirements is going to be extremely difficult to meet as we then have inexperienced under qualified officials deciding on what is and what is not acceptable. The courts are already experiencing a major problem with each case and specialist expert witnesses are effectively deciding the cases.
The standards have been drawn up and accepted. –
SANS 10103 –2004 – The Measurement and rating of environmental noise with respect to land use, health, annoyance and to speech communications.
5.6 Classification of Districts
The new standard outlines various districts and then indicates an acceptable Equivalent Continuous Rating Level (L Req T) for noise in each.

5.7 Old or New Regulations
With the NEMAQA enacted in Parliament it is already technically in force but as the minister has indicated that the act will only be enforceable from 2007, the older Provincial Noise Regulations are still applicable with these dictating that a company or undertaking may not contribute more than 7,0 dBA to the background or ambient noise level applicable.
Enforcement of the Provincial regulations have also proved to be increasingly onerous as these are complicated further by provisions within the Constitution which dictate that all citizens have a right to acceptable conditions (which includes noise.)

_________End of Extract of Occupational Health Training Material_______

Air Pollution and Health Effects in Children

Download and read this PDF article.

If this article is not available anymore it can be requested.


Chris Loans