Wild about recycling

2011-03-09 00:00

IT’S not every day that you get to meet people whose eyes light up when they talk about rubbish; people who get excited about waste paper, polystyrene packaging and foil-lined sachets. Charmaine Veldman and Urvashi Haridass are two such women.

Veldman is programme director and Haridass is operations manager of the Wildlands Conservation Trust’s recycling programme that handles about 120 tons of recycled material a month. The programme started in January 2010 and the public response has been “fantastic” said Veldman. “In fact, it has grown so fast in a short time that it has been a challenge to keep up with public demand,” she said. In the first six months of the project Wildlands collected more than 677 000 kilograms of recycling from over 630 waste-preneurs (entrepreneurs earning an income from waste), 37 schools and 100 businesses.

Commenting on why Wildlands had experienced this surge in public participation, she said: “People in South Africa are ready to take the next step in adopting a more sustainable lifestyle. They want to know what they can do to make this a reality­.”

Wildlands has a network of bins in recycling villages around the city and surrounding areas (see box) where members of the public can take their recyclable waste. In addition to the traditional glass, paper, cardboard and cans, several previously “unrecyclable” items can now be deposited too. Veldman explained that part of Wildlands’s commitment to recycling was to find outlets for waste materials. For example, polystyrene was once a recycling “baddie” because it could not be recycled. However, it has been rehabilitated as Wildlands found a company that could use it. The new “bad boys” on the recycling block are foil-lined sachets. “We take these and are amassing them while we try to find a solution, a way that they can be reused,” Veldman said. Other materials­ that still cannot be recycled are certain glass products such as car windscreens, window panes and drinking glasses. “But we are working on those too,” she said.

Haridass talked at length about recycling paper, which seems to be a complex affair. “It all depends on the quality and finish of the paper. There are matte-finish papers like newsprint and white paper like photostat­ sheets, plus glossy-finish paper like coloured advertising flyers and magazines.” The “bad boys” of the paper recycling world are glossy magazines with a laminated finish that makes them impossible to recycle.

Wildlands trucks collect material from its network of recycling villages once a week or daily in the case of busy villages like Hilton Quarry and Hirsch’s in the CBD. Trucks transport material to the depot on the R103 opposite the entrance to Midmar­ Dam where it is weighed, recorded and sorted. Plastic, for example, is sorted into 14 different types and paper into four different categories. Material is then squashed or compressed into bales for transportation to clients.

Veldman wrinkled her nose as she described the sorting process that happens at the depot: “Urvashi and I have sorted waste with the team of women at the depot and the way people deposit their waste at our villages has a big impact. Please tell people to add ‘rinse’ to the three ‘r’s’of ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’: rinse items like bottles and yogurt containers to remove 90% of the contents. Otherwise, it not only poses a health hazard to the sorters, but buyers will not take material if it is contaminated. It is also very helpful if they flatten items like two-litre bottles, cans and cardboard boxes as they then take up less space in the bins at the villages­ and are easier to bale at the depot.” Similarly, the two women appealed to the public not to deposit matter at recycling villages that should go to a landfill site.

“Another ‘r’ to add is ‘read’,” said Haridass. “We appeal to the members of the public to read the recycling information on materials so they know what to do with them. For example, black rubbish bags and some bread bags are biodegradable. They can go into landfills. We do not want these in the plastic deposited at our villages as they start to biodegrade and contaminate the other material.” Quizzed about how much money the recycling project makes, Veldman said: “What we make from recycling each month fluctuates a lot depending on market prices that change every month, but are always minimal. It also depends on how much material we send to the buyers. Schools get 40% of what their collected waste generates, communities use the value of theirs to barter for goods like food, water tanks and bicycles and the balance goes back into the recycling programme’s running costs. It helps with things like maintaining the vehicles, recycling villages and the main depot.”

The final message from these recycling activists is: “There is no excuse not to recycle.” Wildlands is willing to supply recycling bins to schools or other interested organisations and will undertake to collect the material regularly. However, the demand is so great that Wildlands might have to put people on a waiting list for bins or ask them to deposit their recyclables at the central villages.

• Contact: www.wildlands.co.za or 033 343 6380.

• Quarry shopping centre, Hilton

• Hirsch’s, Armitage Road

• WESSA, Karkloof

• Hayfields Shopping Centre

• Greendale Shopping Centre, Howick

• Cowan House School, Hilton

• Deccan Road Primary School, Raisethorpe

• W.A. Lewitt Primary School, Northdale


This non-profit organisation (NPO) aims to restore and conserve the region’s biodiversity and natural ecosystems by developing innovative socioeconomic partnerships. This is based on the idea that human wellbeing and sustainable development are impossible without biological diversity and healthy natural ecosystems. Its work centres on four core programmes: Conservation Space, Sustainable Communities, Greening Your Future and Green Leaders.

Through Conservation Space, Wildlands works with communities to expand the existing land under conservation, ensuring the effective management and sustainable use of these areas as well as ensuring communities benefit through eco-tourism initiatives. Through Sustainable Communities, Wildlands is improving people’s livelihoods by offering tree-growing and recyclable- waste-collection opportunities to develop entrepreneurial skills with the aim of contributing to the Green Economy. Greening your Future is a forest restoration and climate-change mitigation initiative, with a focus on community upliftment. Trees grown by Wildlands ‘tree-preneurs’ are planted by green teams or community landowners to reforest degraded land and help restore ecosystems. Green Leaders is focused on nurturing environmental awareness and leadership among Wildlands partners, including tree-preneurs, waste-preneurs, community and business leaders.

— www.wildlands.co.za

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