Warwick Junction Early Morning Market, Asiye-eTafuleni, Dennis Gilbert (2007)

Opinion by Asiphile Khanyile, South Africa

-In collaboration with Asiye-eTafuleni, groundWork and the Urban Futures Centre from the Durban University of Technology-

In waste management, the term zero waste has become an ethos, as shifts away from landfills and incinerators are gaining traction globally, largely because of the negative socio-economic and environmental impacts associated with these current disposal methods. In line with these shifts, the Urban Movement Innovation (UMI) Fund has launched an exciting new project titled: Waste Management, Urban Informality and Climate Change: Innovative zero-waste solutions from the informal market streets of Warwick in Durban. As the title alludes, the project is situated in the micro-economic Markets of Warwick; a large, bustling transportation hub in the city centre. These informal markets offer a space for learning about urban informality, waste, and linkages to climate change. Hence, the aim of this project is to create an inclusive zero waste case study that can be potentially replicated in other marketplaces in Africa and in other places around the world. The UMI zero waste project intends to show how informal workers (in this case, collectively known as waste pickers/reclaimers, market traders and street vendors), can demonstrate zero waste models for cities globally whilst mitigating climate change. 

Warwick Junction Early Morning Market, WIEGO, Jonathan Torgovinik (2018)

The project comes from a dynamic and unique standpoint because of the knowledge, skills, diversity, and experience that each of the project partners brings into the space. The project partners ares; Asiye-eTafuleni (AeT), groundWork (gW) and the Urban Futures Centre (UFC) from the Durban University of Technology (DUT). Through this partnership, it has been possible to conduct an initial phase of photovoice research with informal traders, as well as ethnographic research with waste pickers during walkabouts, in order to enable a better understanding of the cultural and socio-environmental perceptions of waste in the Warwick area. Through this approach, the waste pickers and informal traders are placed at the centre of the project. 

Being involved in this initial research has made me realise that waste is a subjective topic, and the project offers an opportunity to bring out context-specific, and replicable, waste management solutions. The project team has also started sharing their knowledge and experiences through the African Waste Management Learning Hub; which is a shared and collaborative learning space created to share lessons, resources and tools between local and international actors wanting to learn more about zero waste management approaches and models.

Aerial View of Warwick Junction, Asiye-eTafuleni, Andrew Griffin (2010)

Finally, creating a circular economy is the epitome of zero waste. In order for circular economies to work, strong collaborative efforts are needed from researchers, consumers, governments and businesses (Awasthi et al. 2021). As a result of the experience I have had working with waste pickers and informal traders, I have realised that conversations around waste are shaped by human-environmental rights, and the search for livelihood strategies. Furthermore, this project will also help to amplify the voices of waste pickers and informal traders. This leads me to believe that the Markets of Warwick provide a suitable space to build solidarity amongst informal workers in the inner city, working with waste pickers and informal traders as shapers on the journey to zero waste in the informal markets in Durban.


Asiphile Khanyile currently works at groundWork in South Africa, as the UMI Waste Project Campaigner.