Joseph Shawa hasn’t seen his eldest daughter in Malawi since 2013.
The recycler works at a City of Cape Town solid waste drop-off facility in Sea Point to provide for his family and doesn’t take any time off.
Mr Shawa said leaving his 12-year-old daughter Triphonia in Malawi with her grandparents was a difficult decision, but he believes that the sacrifice he is making will be appreciated one day as he works to provide for his wife Hendrina and two children, Trevor and Tanya, who live with him in Dunoon.
“There were little opportunities in Blantyre so I decided to come here. I found this job through a cousin of mine who passed away last year,” said the 33-year old. “I work every day, every day, no time off, so I cannot go home to visit my daughter. She always asks when can she come here or when I will visit, but I tell her not now. My wife and kids have gone home to visit but I could not join them.”
The 33-year-old Malawian leaves home just after 6am to arrive in Sea Point by 8am, and he gets home by 7pm via public transportation that costs him R1 120 a month.
“If I don’t get the 6.30am bus then I will be late for work. I use the taxis but because of the taxi violence I had to use the bus and MyCiTi bus as well. It’s not always safe where I live because I was robbed recently,” he said of the daily commute.
Mr Shawa, who has been recycling for eight years, speaks confidently about the various plastics, paper, and glass that he receives and sorts.
“I separate white paper from colour paper, there is plastic bottles that is labelled one or two, they have to be separated, and we only recycle glass bottles. There’s also polystyrene that I collect. Some customers do the separating when they drop it off, others just bring it all together but it’s not a problem, I separate it.
“Aluminium, plastic packets, we recycle that stuff, even electrical appliances, anything that is reusable,” he said.
“We don’t accept wood, building rubble and garden refuse. If a customer does have stuff like that I can tell them where to take it.”
Mr Shawa said some residents are unfriendly, but he recognises that they may have had a rough day at home or at work.
“I know most of the customers, some I don’t assist because they don’t want help because of Covid. Some know where to put their stuff, and I will say 90% are regular customers, so they know what to do and they are friendly.”
He said the pandemic has had an impact on the amount of rubbish they collect.
“Before lockdown we would have 100 people a day dropping off their waste, but now there are only about 30, maybe 40 a day. So people have lost jobs, even my wife lost her job because of this pandemic. I’m very happy to be working it’s a blessing in this time.”