A local and national government initiative is using the circular economy model to slowly transform resource-starved communities in Cape Town, where illegal dumping and waste accumulation is a perennial problem, changing the relationship children and residents have with waste.
Called the iThemba Phakama 4Ps (People, Public, Private, Partnership) project, it motivates free school learners to donate waste collected from their homes and communities back to their schools, where recycling centers are set up which then sort and sell Plastic waste that is not recyclable or difficult to recycle back to the enterprises.
Waste collectors from these communities are also employed in the project to collect waste from streets, homes and businesses in the area.
Waste organizations, such as the Center for Regenerative Design and Collaboration (CRDC), have joined in to support the program. the CRDC’s Bag That Builds initiative awards a rand value per 1kg bag of plastic waste (a bag can contain mixed, soiled plastics of any kind). This money goes back to the schools free of charge as an additional source of income that can be used for promotions, food, or anything the school requires.
But what does CRDC do with this waste and why is it so eager to pay for it? the Waste regulation It provides an end-of-life solution to all plastic waste, by utilizing innovative technology to convert massive amounts of non-recyclable plastic waste into RESIN8, an environmental collector. RESIN8 can be used in the manufacture of concrete for Construction sector – sometimes materials are returned to buildings in schools saving waste.
iThemba Phakama 4Ps Project – an initiative of The Western Cape Departments of Environmental Affairs (DEA), Development Planning (DP) and the National Forest, Fisheries and Environment Department – are now expanding and partnering with more schools in under-resourced communities.
The project piloted a circular economy model at Webner Street Primary School – a no-fee state school in Ravensmead, Cape Town. The model has since been replicated in more schools in Mitchells Plain, Athlone and Langa.
The birth of an idea
Ron Mukanya, Director of Sustainability for the DEA and DP, was inspired by Article in News24 About 500 fed-up people signed an online petition demanding proper fencing for the vandalized school sports field and complaining about the increasing amount of trash on the field, which was insulting to the neighborhood.
Mukanya decided to use the school as a case study for DEA and DP and turn it into a community-based recycling center. The school underwent a radical transformation to become the successful recycling center it is today. Using the money it raised from recycling, the school created a food garden at the school that used organic waste compost from the school’s soup kitchen to grow vegetables, enabling the school to feed an additional 100 pupils.
Ashley Damons, Ithemba Phakama 4Ps Project Manager said: “When the project started at Webner Street Primary, everyone was a little skeptical because conditions at the school hadn’t changed in years. But when we started, the department cleaned and fenced the field. It’s amazing how quickly they understood the concepts of separation at source and recycling,”
Damons said the Wepner Recycling Center was probably the only true circular economy case study showing real results in the area. The team there also won Distinguished Service Awards from the Western Cape Government this year.
“Recycling is not easily accessible, and the ease of picking up your recyclables at a local school or center within the community makes it convenient to recycle,” Mukanya said. Like many coastal areas, particularly in developing economies, the Western Cape is facing Currently there are challenges related to solid waste, including single-use plastics.”
He said levels of illegal dumping were unacceptably high and that many informal and low-income communities still did not dispose of plastic responsibly.
As a result, large amounts of plastic waste finds its way into our waterways, as this waste flows into the ocean and affects the fishing industry and tourism, the two biggest sources of income in our county. Plastic waste also provides a breeding ground for waterborne diseases that affect the most vulnerable communities.”
This model one way or another addresses all of these issues while providing employment opportunities for waste collectors in these areas.
That said Kyle Dewar, a spokesperson for Polico, one of the organizations involved in the project When the community understood the value of recycling, there was a meeting of minds on how to recycle and segregate the waste at the source, so that it could be collected and sold to the recycling leaders along the value chain.
This benefits these communities from a socio-economic perspective in addition to having a positive environmental impact. We see these communities stepping in because they now know they can create income-earning opportunities while educating and cleaning up the environment and their neighborhoods – and that’s where we want to be sweet. This, in turn, eliminates the need for illegal dumping grounds and building communities.” Dewar said.
Kianan Reese, director of the South African Research and Development Center, said the organization is also helping the project with additional sorting and transportation costs where necessary. It has collected transaction data at each center, which, after a few months, will show how many bags were brought into each center and the revenue paid to collectors, he said. The data is crucial in terms of reporting to current and future CRDC sponsors.
CRDC’s Bag That Builds initiative works on a sponsorship model, Reese said. The Coalition to End Plastic Waste is one of CDC’s partners both locally and globally, sponsoring the first 12 months of the initiative. DM
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