A Pacific Recycling Foundation (PRF) mapping exercise on Fiji’s waste collection community has revealed that 47 per cent of those involved in this sector are over the age of 55 with the oldest being 74.
PRF founder and chief executive Amitesh Deo said some senior citizens have ended up on our streets and resorted to waste picking to make a living as a direct result of elder abuse, social isolation, and absence of family support and connections, and financial support.
He said elder abuse and neglect is a pressing concern where some senior citizens are now involved in waste picking for survival after being abandoned by their children or told by loved ones to fend for themselves.
“In a few cases, some senior citizens have started waste picking, not only for a living but because they have been able to find solace with fellow Collection Pillars of Recycling who operate in close-knit groups,” Deo said.
He said they fail to understand why some of our citizens are ending up on the streets picking up PET bottles or looking for recyclables from rubbish bins, and why they keep coming back to the streets when removed by authorities or reunited with their families.
“It is quite an interesting finding that those abandoned by their loved ones or have been victims of elder abuse have found a new lease of life through the waste-picking trade, and unknowingly, are also combating climate change by preventing waste from going to landfill and dumpsites.”
Deo said such findings will be revealed in the PRF’s Mapping Exercise Report which will be launched in September 2023 together with the plans on how the Foundation aims to provide structured support to these individuals.