Illegal dumping in Diepsloot gives rise to waste economy

After watching the densely populated Johannesburg township of Diepsloot gradually turn into a dump site, with one stream smothered by rubble and refuse, Nondumiso Sibiya was driven to do something about illegal dumping that has left children without safe places to play.

“One of the children got run over by a car and that moment raised questions about why children did not have any designated places to play,” she said. “I met my [business partner] and looked for a solution.”

With a population of about 350 000, the township is home to a mix of informal and formal settlements, and has over the years become a dumping ground for companies in surrounding areas.

Boombadotmobi is also experimenting with breeding earthworms and black soldier fly larvae for food waste processing.

After discussions with residents, Sibiya and her partner saw an opportunity for a waste management company that connects waste creators with collectors to facilitate responsible disposal. And thus Boombadotmobi was born.

“We also want to get the community involved in the process of managing the environment,” Sibiya told the Mail & Guardian.

Running a successful waste management company requires residents’ participation, but this was difficult in Diepsloot, where residents are more preoccupied with where their next meal will come from.

“We want to start food waste collection but we also need to create an economy — like what has been done with cans and bottles, for instance — so we want to create a demand for food waste, like a bartering system,” Sibiya said.

Sibiya has learned about the value of waste products and the important role that waste pickers play in keeping the environment clean.

“There is the negative stereotype that the people who do recycling are filthy or are just doing it for drugs. I have learnt that the people that are working on the ground doing recycling are helping this country because, without them, who is going to take back the waste?” she said.

“It has changed my perspective because, instead of begging on the streets, they are going out to find the waste that can be recycled and turned into value.”

Boombadotmobi is also experimenting with breeding earthworms and black soldier fly larvae for food waste processing.

“When I tell people that I breed black soldier flies they think that is disgusting but learning about the worms and the flies has been exciting,” she says. “The goal is to create an economy of waste where, from the collection to composting, there is no dumping of waste but the soil benefits from it.”

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Marcia Zali
Marcia Zali is an award winning journalist

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