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Working together to keep our seas (and communities) litter free

SST’s Recycling and Waste Locations Map is a vital building block in our attempts at creating a waste-related network across Africa – in which people and organisations work together to keep our seas and communities litter free.

Auditing the effectiveness and upkeep of the map’s many sites is a time and resource-intensive activity requiring consistent user input and extensive collaboration. So, when KZN Recycling Forum member and environmental advocate Kim Burgess reached out to SST proposing an in-person audit of some of the Durban sites, we were more than happy to give her the go-ahead.

Managing and reducing waste is a shared responsibility, and the map’s ultimate success depends on establishing such partnerships with like-minded individuals and organisations who see the intrinsic benefit of strengthening platforms that already exist.

On the day, Kim visited a few sites within the Palmiet River catchment area to determine how the map could be leveraged to help municipalities, the public and businesses connect with recycling sites and drop-off facilities, thereby making it easier for them to recycle and to start seeing waste as a resource.

What Kim witnessed at some sites was encouraging, while a few others did not meet SST’s criteria guiding map entries and their performance. Kim’s visit also highlighted the aftermath of KZN’s recent heavy rains and how the ensuing floods further exposed the area’s waste management crisis.

Here is the outcome of that site audit as well as Kim’s insights and recommendations on how some of these sites can be improved.

Clermont Garden Refuse and Transfer Station: Kim’s first stop was at the transfer station between Clermont and the main landfill in Buffelsdraai. The site appeared well-run, clean, and had clear signage. Besides some stray non-garden refuse that should not have been accepted, overall, the site seemed fully operational.

  • Stricter measures need to be taken to monitor the types of loads accepted.
  • The long transport of loads to Buffelsdraai landfill conflicts with circular ideals. Employing chippers, shredders and mulchers will help reduce waste volume and create composting opportunities which could benefit the Durban Botanic Gardens and local food garden projects.

Silver Jupiter Investments: Located within the Clermont site, this collection, sorting, and baling centre accepts plastic, glass, cans, paper, and board – which are then collected by local buy-back centres and recycling companies. The small-scale business is clean and fully operational.

  • Because it’s primed to accept household recyclables, greater public awareness needs to be created to support the centre.
  • By engaging on-site sorters at a small service fee, the centre can benefit from a sorting system that separates garden refuse from other potentially recyclable materials.

Wyebank Garden Refuse: The Wyebank Garden Refuse site was a disappointment. Piles of garden refuse were mixed with filled refuse bags and non-garden waste. Water polluted by household waste was pooling everywhere, causing a smell of rot to hang over the area. The contaminated water is also leaching into the Palmiet River, which feeds into the Umgeni River, and eventually the ocean.

  • eThekwini Municipality needs to be made aware of the site’s deterioration since its reopening in 2022.
  • A complete site overhaul and cleanup is required.
  • Waste acceptance and sorting systems need to be reintroduced and run by trained waste managers.

Fields Hill Shell Garage – reverse vending machine (RVM): RVMs represent a significant advance in the recycling principle of sorting waste at source. Their objective is also not to enrich individuals, but to incentivise customers to divert recyclables from landfills. Although the Shell Garage RVM is not situated in an ideal spot, the mere fact of it being there is encouraging.

  • The whole concept and larger aim of reverse vending requires greater consideration in South Africa’s waste management space.
  • Consumer awareness on the purpose and locations of these machines needs to be promoted.

New Germany and Pinetown – two small-scale recyclers: Heading into the New Germany and Pinetown areas in search of two small-scale recyclers was disappointing: one was no longer in existence, and the other appeared closed or not operational on the day.

  • Must confirm if these sites are operational to avoid illegal dumping.

Westville Civic Centre: Two weeks later, Kim also visited the Westville Civic Centre’s Glass and Paper Bank. This is a fully functional, well-managed public drop-off centre funded and run by the Westville Environmental Trust.

  • Update SST’s map with the site’s access hours and the types of recyclables accepted.

Aftermath of the KwaZulu-Natal floods

The biggest eye opener for Kim was how the recent floods exposed the waste crisis in these areas and pollution of the Palmiet River. Palmiet River Valley Conservancy member Lee D’Eathe confirmed that water tests taken along one section of the Palmiet contained an E. Coli count of more than 1 million MPN/100ml.

Due to the floods, huge amounts of litter were deposited along the river’s banks and in the surrounding vegetation. What’s most concerning is that much of the area’s widespread pollution feeds into the Umgeni River and eventually the ocean – the impact of which is devastating to our marine ecosystems.

While there were indeed positives gained from the sites audit, mostly it was a discouraging experience that again highlights the massive urgency of mitigating the impacts of waste, and particularly plastic waste.

There is however light at the end of the tunnel – one that’s fuelled by constant collaboration and partnerships. Only if we work together in creating a pro-environment, waste-as-resource culture backed by robust waste management practices (and infrastructure) can we overcome this challenge.

The SST team would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Kim Burgess and her team!

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