Recycling in the Helderberg

A WastePlan recycling bag filled with recyclable material in anticipation of the weekly collection run in the Helderberg.

Recycling might be alive and well in the Helderberg, but with the tardy response to enquiries from the City of Cape Town, and the non-response to enquiries from its appointed contractor, it is impossible to tell.

Bolander published a story about a Drakenstein Municipality recycling initiative on March 27 (“A better life for some”) which provides self-employment for a number of people who previously subsisted as garbage pickers, living on the Wellington landfill site.

The story prompted a letter from a Somerset West reader, asking some important questions about the recycling initiative in the Helderberg:

Where do the clear plastic bags of recyclables go each week?

Are the contents of each bag sorted, or do they end up in a landfill?

Bolander submitted a series of questions to the City of Cape Town media office on Friday April 12:

Who runs the programme?

How long has it been in effect?

How many jobs has it created?

Is it self-sustaining or does it need funding support from the City?

Does the City plan to roll out recycling to the wider community in the metropole, and when is this planned to happen?

What guidelines are communicated to residents for sorting of recyclable waste?

How successful has the programme been?

Despite repeated follow-up emails, no response was received, until Bolander wrote to the City’s director of communication, Priya Reddy, on May 29. To her credit, she responded immediately, and connected Bolander with senior media liaison officer, Jyothi Naidoo, who, over the next few days elicited responses to the questions submitted.

The kerbside Think Twice waste minimisation and recycling programme is a City project, and recyclable waste collected in the Helderberg is collected and processed by WastePlan, the contractor appointed by the City to run the programme, according the City’s mayoral committee member for water and waste, Xanthea Limberg.

Specific questions about the programme from Waste Plan’s perspective were directed at the contractor in an email dated June 11, including but not limited to:

How long it has been in operation?

How many jobs it has created?

What needs to be done to make the programme economically sustainable?

Whether or not each bag is further sorted into recyclable and non-recyclable?

What happens to recycling bags which contain both wet and dry waste?

Despite a follow-up email, and an appeal to Ms Naidoo on June 8 to facilitate a response from WastePlan, there has been no response to date.

What we do know, about recycling in the Helderberg comes from Ms Limberg, in response to Bolander’s original questions.

“The City has identified areas, where the standard refuse collection services have been contracted out, to include recycling using the City’s tender system, to external service providers. The Helderberg area is one of those areas. Currently, the contractor that is responsible for the recycling collections in the Helderberg area is WastePlan,” said Ms Limberg.

“There is a detailed map on the WastePlan website, showing which recycling collections are done in this area on which day of the week, at: http://www.wasteplan.co.za/residential-maps/

“WastePlan reports to the City on a monthly basis in terms of recycling that they process at the City’s Kraaifontein materials recovery facility (MRF), which includes recyclables collected from (120 000 households) in the Helderberg area, as well as Hout Bay and Durbanville. In the last financial year, the average monthly tonnage collected from these three areas is 1 335 tonnes of recyclables.

“Recyclables have been collected from the Helderberg area since September 2008, by various contractors, in three-year tender cycles.”

Asked how many jobs the programme had created, Ms Limberg said: “The job information would need to be obtained from (WastePlan), as some of the jobs are shared between collection areas. Others such as the drivers and the runners collecting the recyclables, would be attributable to this contract. WastePlan to provide exact numbers.” At the time of going to print, WastePlan had not responded to Bolander’s questions.

According to Ms Limberg: “The City pays the contractors for the collection of the recyclables,” which suggests that the programme is not economically sustainable, but with no response to Bolander’s enquiry in this regard to WastePlan, this is unclear.

Asked about the City’s plans to roll out the “Think Twice” programme more widely, Ms Limberg said: “The City is working on a longterm plan to extend the recycling collection services to additional areas in the City, but this is partially reliant on the construction of additional materials recovery facilities, to ensure that there is enough capacity to sort the recyclables in the City.”

With clear guidelines for the sorting at source of waste into recyclable and non-recyclable streams making a significant contribution to the programme’s success, Ms Limberg said: “WastePlan distributes a pamphlet in their starter packs for the Helderberg area. The guidelines include: What is and isn’t recyclable, how to prepare your recyclables for collection, and other relevant information.”

Bolander was unable to source a copy of the WastePlan pamphlet, but the City provides a comprehensive recycling resource on its website, including a downloadable recycling FAQ and a plastics identification code guideline. Visit https://bit.ly/2mNPNqq for more information.

Households which are included in the “Think Twice” programme are provided with clear recycling bags in which recyclable waste should be secured, and placed at the top of the wheelie bin when it is put out on refuse collection day. These bags will be collected by a WastePlan truck during the course of the day.

“Residents are also advised that participation in waste minimisation and recycling is not restricted to only the Think Twice collection service. The City also has a network of drop-off facilities where residents are encouraged to drop off their recycling. The Gordon’s Bay Drop-off facility can additionally also accept certain recyclable or re-usable goods which the Think Twice service won’t be able to collect, due, for example to bulkiness.”

As to the success of the City’s recycling programme, Ms Limberg said: “In the 2017/18 financial year, the City’s “Think Twice” kerbside recycling collection/separation at source programme diverted 21 763 tonnes of recyclables from landfill.”

Speaking more broadly about waste minimisation, Ms Limberg said: “Waste minimisation is a priority for the City of Cape Town, which continues to enable and facilitate the re-use or recycling of waste into economic resources, while reducing the waste that goes to landfill.

“This is achieved by implementing waste minimisation and recycling programmes, as well as facilitating increased waste minimisation by the private sector. The City’s waste minimisation programmes are supported by public awareness and education programmes, including the use of print and electronic media as well as face-to-face and door-to-door programmes.”

Aside from the “Think Twice” programme, waste minimisation programmes for recyclable packaging waste include the recovery and sale of recyclables to the recycling industry from over 20 drop-off sites across the City, according to Ms Limberg.

“At (these) drop-off sites residents can drop off garden refuse, builders’ rubble, and recycling materials, and a variety of other items that may not be disposed of into household wheelie bins. Residents are encouraged to make use of these facilities for the legal and safe disposal of waste. Residents can drop-off up to three loads, limited to vehicles with a maximum 1.5 ton carrying capacity, each day at drop-off sites, free of charge.

“The organic waste minimisation programmes include the chipping of garden waste at 12 of (the City’s) larger drop-off facilities, for composting offsite, as well as the continued distribution of approximately 5 000 home composting containers per year to residents, as part of the home composting programme.

“The City also recycles some of its own waste streams such as paper, used oil and scrap metal, which are generated by municipal operations.

“The City has recently initiated a contract for the crushing and re-use of building and demolition waste, for sale into the building industry from selected City waste management facilities, which will be expanded to further sites. The City has action plans to expand these waste minimisation programmes and develop further infrastructure to support them, as detailed in (the City’s) integrated development plan.”