Proud Drakenstein ‘wastepreneurs’ get personalised PPE

Proud Drakenstein ‘wastepreneurs’ get personalised PPE
27 Mar 2022

Proud Drakenstein ‘wastepreneurs’ get personalised PPE

Drakenstein Municipality is reaping the rewards of a recycling programme it launched four years ago at the Wellington Landfill Site, with several success stories emanating from it.

Not only are former illegal recyclers – known as “wastepreneurs” today – assisted in building a dignified life and earning a decent income, but the Municipality’s dedication, hard work and determination to turn around what once was a major headache into a positive environment and story, is recognised.

PETCO (PET Recycling Company NPC) recently handed over personal protective equipment (PPE) to “wastepreneurs” working at the Wellington Landfill Site. According to Thys Serfontein, Senior Manager: Solid Waste and Landfill Management at Drakenstein Municipality, PETCO has been “amazingly supportive of this project right from the start and still are today”.

Each “wastepreneur’s” name and surname, as well as the logos of Drakenstein Municipality and PETCO are embroidered on the PPE. This allows people to recognise them as official “wastepreneurs”, destigmatising them within the community, and providing them with a sense of dignity and belonging.

“PETCO supports individual collectors, SMMEs, co-operatives and community-based organisations through the sponsorship of infrastructure, PPE and equipment,” says Belinda Booker, PETCO Collections and Training Project Manager. “This allows them to unlock collections and improve efficiencies as well as the quantity and quality of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) material they collect. Part of our education campaign has also included work to destigmatise collectors in the areas they work.”

Serfontein added that Drakenstein Municipality has been one of the first municipalities to successfully complete the “integration of waste pickers into the formal waste industry at municipal level” – one of national government’s focus areas.

“As soon as our MRF (Material Recovery Facility) and RTS (Refuse Transfer Station) are concluded and start to fully function in the 2022/23 financial year, these ‘wastepreneurs’ will be accommodated within the MRF. Here they will be able to, with the assistance of the ‘conveyor belt’, increase their production. This will also mean that approximately 50 tonnes less material, which is the average recycling weight per month in Drakenstein, will reach the landfill site,” says Serfontein.

Before the recycling programme was launched in 2018, the Wellington Landfill Site was home to many illegal waste pickers, who made a living from reclaiming recyclable material on the working surface. They entered the site unauthorised, threatened visitors, and vandalised the peripheral fence and equipment on site. They would also light fires on the working surface, which led to the contravention of the Landfill Site’s license conditions. The situation spiralled out of control when these people became violent and aggressive, affecting service delivery at the site.

Fortunately all this was turned around in July 2018 when 70 “former illegal recyclers” were successfully accommodated at a designated area at the drop-off facility, adjacent to the landfill. They became “waste entrepreneurs” (or “wastepreneurs”) who process and sell recyclable material that the Municipality collects from participating households in Drakenstein. They were provided with reflector jackets, PPE and name tags, while the “wastepreneurs” established a committee amongst themselves that regularly consults with the Municipality.

The “wastepreneurs” also benefitted from recycling training provided by the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning. These skills and knowledge added much value to their existing way of operating.

This success story has led to Drakenstein Municipality being invited to share our knowledge and assist other municipalities facing the same challenges. It also earned the Municipality the PETCO Award for Municipal Innovations in June 2019. In that same year, Drakenstein Municipality walked away with the Most Improved: Waste Management Award at the Western Cape Government’s Greenest Municipality Awards, as well as the Innovation Award for this project.

In June 2019, Drakenstein Municipality’s recycling-at-source programme was extended to all formal households in Wellington and a section of Mbekweni. Waste collected from these areas is dropped off at the MRF, where it is sorted and baled before being sold to recycling companies. The income generated goes directly to the “wastepreneurs” as they all work for themselves.