Thinking Households—How Resident Conceptualisations of Waste, Reclaimers and Separation at Source Shape Recycling Practices

Grace Kadyamadare, Melanie Samson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Municipalities across the globe are implementing separation at source programmes to reduce waste sent to landfills. Yet typically, significant numbers of households do not participate. This article contributes to debates on reasons for low S@S participation rates through comparative analysis of participation in Johannesburg’s first S@S programme by residents in the low-income, predominantly black suburb of Newlands and the high-income, predominantly white area of Franklin Roosevelt Park. The article argues that how residents conceptualised waste, S@S and reclaimers (waste pickers) influenced whether they separated their recyclables and what they did with them. Class (which is articulated with race) played an important role, as while some residents in each area revalued recyclables via routes other than the official Pikitup programme, those in Franklin Roosevelt Park tended to separate for reclaimers, while residents in Newlands were more likely to sell their recyclables to augment their incomes or reuse them to reduce the need for new purchases. These separation practices and the quantities diverted from landfill were invisible to Pikitup, which only recognised separation of materials for its pilot. The findings highlight the necessity of expanding conceptualisations of S@S to include these additional routes to revaluation if we are to develop S@S programmes that are contextually appropriate and capture accurate data on waste diversion from landfills. In addition, interventions to transform residents’ conceptualisation of waste so that it excludes recyclables and other items that retain value could facilitate greater participation in this expanded form of separation at source.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-46
Number of pages22
JournalUrban Forum
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024


  • Reclaimers
  • Recycling
  • Separation at source
  • Waste
  • Waste picker integration
  • Waste pickers
  • Waste theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Urban Studies


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