/ 3 December 2012

Reducing waste to landfill

Trash to treasure field workers at the Pikitup Zondi depot
Trash to treasure field workers at the Pikitup Zondi depot

With Johannesburg's landfill sites under increasing pressure to accommodate the city's burgeoning waste, Pikitup is committed to achieving a 20% reduction in all general waste to landfill by 2016.

It intends to achieve this through various waste minimisation and recycling initiatives, with the emphasis on the separation of recyclable waste at source.

This is in support of the City of Johannesburg's 2040 growth and development strategy, as well as its commitment to the Polokwane Declaration of zero waste to landfill sites, the integrated pollution and waste management policy of South Africa, the National Environmental Management: Waste Act of 2008, the national waste management strategy and the waste management by-laws of the City of Johannesburg, among others.

Pikitup's managing director, Amanda Nair, said Pikitup's main focus is to establish sustainable separation-at-source programmes in all its depot regions. The programmes entail households separating their waste products into plastics, glass, paper and the like before putting them out for collection by Pikitup.

"A pilot separation-at-source project targeted at 35 000 households was initiated at our Waterval depot in November 2009 with a view to extending it to approximately 750 000 formal and informal households in the remaining depot regions.

"We achieved between 20% and 25% participation rate at Waterval, which is acceptable for a project of this nature, and are continuing with the project in the area with the emphasis on encouraging increased participation.

"In addition, we are currently extending the project citywide with particular focus on initiatives aimed at empowering poorer communities," she said.

The separation-at-source rollout plan is being phased in over a four-year period and the areas targeted in the 2012/2013 financial year include Zondi depot area (108 000 households in Soweto), Diepsloot (46 000 households), Orange Farm (46 000 households) and Ivory Park (60 000 households).

In the medium term, Pikitup intends to roll separation-at-source out to remaining informal and formal areas and, in the long term, maintain the model at all Pikitup depot areas.

The four-year target is to recycle the 160 000 tonnes of waste that is recyclable which is generated in Johannesburg every year.

The extending of separation-at-source programmes to informal areas will focus on job creation and community participation. Pikitup has proposed the construction of community-based material recycling facilities and the use of garden sites as sorting facilities.

In addition, it hopes to assist with the establishment of local cooperatives or community-based organisations to manage the recycling process in their areas and involve end-buyers or recycling forums to capacitate sorting facilities, among several other initiatives.

Dubbed the Trash to Treasure Project, participation in the separation-at-source campaign is encouraged by Pikitup door-to-door field workers – otherwise known as the Treasure Team – who have been tasked with visiting households in Zondi, Diepsloot, Ivory Park and Orange Farm to explain the process and hand out supporting literature.

Nair said the emphasis is on educating residents about the different types of waste and instilling a change in behaviour in terms of how waste is viewed.

"The ultimate goal is to cut down dramatically on the amount of waste produced overall, but where this is unavoidable, to recycle as much as possible," she said.

Recycling in this instance means separating household waste into three different receptacles provided by Pikitup – a beige hessian bag for paper; a clear plastic bag for plastic and other recyclable material; and a 240-litre wheelie bin for non-recyclable waste.

Pikitup is committed to working with people who eke out a living by selling waste and creating sustainable job opportunities for them. In this respect, the waste management entity is working on a model to formalise the work done by reclaimers or waste pickers, Nair said.

In addition, Pikitup is focusing on six additional areas in the execution of its waste minimisation and recycling mandate. These include

• the composting of organic waste disposed of at garden sites; • establishing and/or supporting builder's rubble crushing plants in partnership with the private sector; • upgrading of garden sites to receive recyclable waste; • transforming 10 garden sites into centres of excellence; • educating communities in good waste management practices; and • supporting legitimate recycling initiatives.

The city's waste management strategy has identified three main deliverables for the diversion of waste from landfills: reduce waste to landfill through waste minimisation and recycling; construct and initiate a waste to energy plant; and establish a recycling economy in the City of Johannesburg. According to the executive mayor of the City of Johannesburg, Parks Tau, a recycling economy translates into

• an improved quality of life; • a resilient, liveable and sustainable urban economy; • a job-intensive and competitive economy that harnesses the potential of all citizens; and • a high performing metropolitan government that proactively contributes to and builds a sustainable, social economy in the region.

Nair said this paints a clear picture for Pikitup.

"To make this agenda come alive, Pikitup needs to deliver a clean and healthy environment; job creation and entrepreneurial opportunities; the saving of valuable landfill airspace and the commercialising of waste in driving a broad culture of recycling across the city. Of course, we can only do this successfully if the public is part of the solution."