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Waste Collecting as an Art Form

What is the relationship between people, the environment and waste? How can this knowledge contribute towards creating solutions for plastic pollution? Masters student from the Netherlands, Shannah Leenheer, is exploring these questions in her research that combines the study of people and environmental concerns- “I want to explore the different perspectives people have of their environment and waste, to see if this knowledge can help in finding constructive ways for collaborations between environmental organisations and the people on the ground.”

Shannah joined Sustainable Seas Trust (SST) in January 2019 for three months as part of the African Waste Academy’s Young Leaders and Expert Exchange programme. As a part of her research to gain a better understanding and an inside perspective, Shannah immersed herself in the everyday lives of local Port Elizabeth communities.

Shannah shares a short story on her experience working with three passionate and innovative 60-year-old women who collect waste and transform it into reusable items:

“It was 11.00 in the morning and already very hot while I walked through Blue Water Bay. I was there to experience the daily lives of Eunice, Nosipho and Nosizwe, three waste collectors and recyclers who are passionate about caring for the environment. They have been collecting waste since 1999 and are unstoppable. Even now, in their 60’s, they still do everything they can to create a cleaner environment. From Monday to Friday they go to different locations, from dumping grounds to the suburbs, and collect as much waste as possible.

After only two hours of collecting waste, I was absolutely burnt out and ready to sit and catch my breath. There were no trolleys or carts to move the big, heavy bags. We had to drag them along while collecting the waste. Also, the gloves were torn so we had to pick through the rubbish and maggots with our bare hands. Still, these ladies worked hard and did not complain once.

On top of collecting waste, Eunice, Nosipho and Nosizwe also sort through it looking for recyclables and items they can reuse for their arts and crafts. From lovely handbags and wallets to cooking items and jewellery, they try to be as creative and innovative as possible. On Fridays they open up their workshop to sell the arts and crafts to anybody who is interested. During the week they give workshops in schools to teach children about caring for their environment and how to reuse waste through arts and crafts.

In 2018 they won a prize for their creative initiative and are really trying to motivate as many people as possible. So, do not hesitate to check out their arts and crafts in Motherwell or to let them inspire you in creative ways of taking care of the environment.”

You can contact Noziohamo arts and crafts recycling at 073 008 7595.

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