Compassion – “Street Surfers” saving the planet?

It’s Thursday morning in Pretoria and all drivers need to “dodge” the various “street surfers” aka recycle guys’ trolleys (illegally) occupying lanes meant for vehicles.  Not only that, but the areas around dustbins “raided” are mostly left a mess.

This was my first reaction to dealing with these guys on my way to the office.  For some reason, this situation stayed in my mind the entire day. Due to the harrowing effect of Covid-19 on staff morale over the last 2 years, we decided to focus on Wellness@ERS in 2022. 

To dissect this concept and imbed it in our culture – attending to wellness, starting with our staff.  And the first concept we embrace is that of compassion.  That is probably why the Street Surfers got stuck in my mind – where is my compassion for these guys?  Do they even deserve it?

About two years ago I stumbled upon a short film made by Frank Solomon, a professional big-wave surfer. He decided to find out more about his fellow surfers far from the ocean, but who has a direct impact on his playground – the “street surfers” of Gauteng.

 During his investigation, he found the following:

  • These guys travel up to 50km in one day to do their collections
  • They start this process around 3 am
  • In 2019 around 90% of ALL recycling of plastic and paper, were done by the street surfers
  • They earn around R300 per 100kg of plastic and/or paper collected per day
  • This is the only option they have to provide for their families
  • They are the reason that a lot less plastic and paper land up in our oceans

To watch this short film: Click Here

Once again the question with regards to compassion came to my mind.  Should I not rather view these guys as heroes?  As saviours of our oceans, our planet.  Surely they are bigger contributors towards recycling than I am?

I’m a firm believer in everyone’s choice to be either part of the problems we have in South Africa or be part of the solution. To me, it’s clear that the Street Surfers are part of the solution to one of the problems we have and they will have my compassion going forward.  By being compassionate, I will thank them for the contribution they make. Why don’t you too?

Alma Darliongton, CEO of Excel Recovery Services.

Alma Darlington
Excel Recovery Services