Building a future with waste

Michael Khumalo accepts recycling from Lakeside residents Hugo and Helen Jordaan watched by Duke Martin.

Janice Dyson of Orchard Village woke one morning and decided to start a recycling project. But where would she find someone
to help drive it?

Her neighbour Vicky Kumm said she knew of someone who could help so she put Janice in touch with Michael Khumalo of Vrygrond who has been involved in recycling for many years.

That was one month ago and now the Mountain View Baptist Church carpark on the corner of Boyes Drive and Main Road is bustling every Thursday morning for two hours from 7am as residents from far and wide drop off their recycling and then drive away to drop children at school or continue to work.

Michael saw the gap in 2011 when Capricorn Park was developed under the reconstruction and development programme (RDP) and houses were given to that community. Each family then built bungalows (shacks) on their plot, people moved in, sometimes with as many as 25 people living on one property.

Each plot had only one wheelie bin and these were emptied by the municipality once a week. The rest of the time rubbish was dumped on open ground at the back of Capricorn Park.

Michael said the land was allocated for small farming and animals but backed onto bush and became an escape for criminals. So, he took the initiative and started sorting waste and approached recycling companies to collect it.

He now employs others to sort the waste, teaching them about different plastics and paper. The project also has spin-offs for the community as he pays them for the waste they would normally throw away and they can then feed their families. Since he began, he said, there had been a reduction in crime and Capricorn Park is cleaner as people were even picking up rubbish which they sold to him.

As his business grew, he hired a vehicle to take the sorted items away. “But there’s no forklift. Instead it’s job creation sometimes employ-
15 to 20 people. Always casual labour as some people do not want to work all day,” said Michael.

The cost of hiring a vehicle is high, about
R1 000 a day so he makes sure that he uses it the whole time, dropping off materials which has been sorted and dropping off at the coastal landfill park at Strandfontein or recycling companies.

Michael said there was a growing awareness about the lifespan of landfills and the idea to reduce waste that went to them. He saw this as an opportunity, with less waste meaning more jobs.

He also started using more recycling companies and not relying on only one. His days are long – from 7am to 7pm – often with 300 people bringing their recycling material. “This means that I’m indirectly employing many others as there are lots of social ills in this community but this is an honest way for them to make a living.”

On Thursday people were bringing all types of recyclable items, in clear plastic bags or boxes. One item Michael does not take, however, is polystyrene.

“Recycling companies pay by weight and with polystyrene being light, it needs more storage and also it is a long drive to Parow which is the only place that takes it at present,” he explained.

Janice said they were also encouraging people to make eco-bricks. These are two-litre cooldrink bottles stuffed with waste, including chip and chocolate wrappers, and single use plastic bags. Each bottle must be stuffed tight with this waste which is the equivalent of two black plastic bags full. The filled, hard eco-brick is then used to build a room in a school or a library.

Lakeside Community Watch members donated banners to advertise the recycling project to passers-by.

The watch’s chairman, Paul Plumridge ,and other patrollers gathered to meet, socialise and support the project. “It’s about getting to know the residents and encouraging them to join us and this drive-through recycling initiative, which is worth gold. People see the banners as they drive past. There are lots of people from Fish Hoek but also many people from
Constantia who work in the south,” he

Hugo and Helen Jordaan recently moved to Lakeside from Somerset West where the City collected their recycling. They found out about the recycling project on social media. “It’s our first time but we will do it regularly now as it’s so convenient although there are glass and paper igloos in the area,” said Hugo.

Janice and Michael are now planning to start another site in the Constantia valley and on a different day of the week. “It’s a work in progress,” said Janice.

And, Michael added, the more waste they collected, the more jobs they would create and less waste went to

Reverend Kevin Daines said the church had been looking for a way to recycle, with dump sites reaching capacity. There was also tension within the congregation against bin pickers trying to eke out a living. “Some have the unvalidated belief that bin-pickers create a spike in crime or are a front for criminals to come into an area,” he said.

“The community have responded well and it’s a great initiative. I hope it will be copied across the city,” he added.