BioExTech getting homeless people off the streets of Cape Town

According to a recent estimate by the Human Sciences Resource Center, South Africa is home to approximately 200,000 street homeless people[1]. In Cape Town the estimated number of homeless people was at 7,383 in 2015, with 4,862 living and sleeping on the streets and 2,521 sleeping in shelters. 79% of the identified street people were male and 74% aged between 26 and 45.[2]

Common misperceptions around street people often paint a negative picture of alcoholics, drug addicts, thieves, bin scratchers, dirty and scruffy vagabonds… our experience is quite different!

Many street people in Cape Town’s central city rely on collecting recyclables to earn a basic, honest income. Scenes like those depicted above are not uncommon where street people (Urban Miners as we like to call them) would dig through dustbins looking for food and other valuable items, such as: old electronics, paper, plastics and metals. Urban Miners are actually providing a hugely valuable service:

  1. reducing the burden on waste collection by recovering re-usable or valuable items
  2. reducing waste going to our landfills, which are currently overflowing
  3. earning an honest living rather than begging, borrowing or stealing (as many people incorrectly perceive)

Urban miners are often stuck in a poverty cycle – just making enough to survive and meet the needs of themselves and their family or colleagues on a daily basis. This is where the TrashBack team and BioExTech platform come into play.

We developed a methodology to work with Urban Miners and slowly formalise them into Collection Agents by connecting them with income generating opportunities that lie on the boundary of their sphere of comfort. This encourages personal growth and when combined with our customised systems and processes, partner support network, and the BioExTech system – the magic happens.

It’s quite simple really: people (our customers who generate waste) want to recycle the waste they generate and be more environmentally responsible. We make this easy through a professional collection service provided by our team of formal Collection Agents. The Collection Agents earn an income through providing a good service and the volume of recyclables they collect, and BioExTech is the back-bone that makes this all possible in an efficient and seamless manner.

BioExTech allows us to monitor all Collection Agent activity to ensure that a reliable service is provided to our customers. Further to this the data collected gives key insights that allows us to give our customers reports to meet their needs and make continual improvements to onsite waste reduction efforts.

All Collection Agents have secure profiles on the BioExTech platform that allow them to keep their earnings safe until they need access, which is as simple as the swipe of a finger to get paid out in cash, through a mobile phone, a debit card or directly at an ATM. The data collected also gives us key insights into the collectors and how they are progressing or any need for interventions and support.

Finally the operations data and financial reporting functionality of BioExTech allows us to manage our Social Enterprise more effectively, pick up any inconstancies as they happen, and gives the right information when we need it in order to inform our decision making and enable us to flourish.

[1] Rule-Groenewald et al., 2015

[2] City of Cape Town’s Social Development and Early Childhood Development Directorate’s survey


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