Hope for the homeless

2015-05-05 06:00

A recycling initiative has given new hope to homeless people on the streets of Plumstead.

The organisation, Greentrolley, aims to empower people living on the streets by providing them with employment and educating them in the process.

The recycling depot is situated on the corners of Main and Fairdale Roads.

Here homeless people are encouraged to “earn for their waste”, by using a trolley provided to them by the project coordinators and collect items which can be recycled.

Items include plastic, cans, cardboard, white paper, glass bottles and jars as well as magazines, telephone books, newspaper and foam packaging.

The initiative was launched on Monday 5 January and already has over 91 people registered on its database.

Heinz Smekal, project coordinator, says all the homeless who participate are registered on the database.

“They are expected to collect and separate recyclables from the non-recyclables,” he says. They place the recyclables into a separate bag or bin. The recyclable waste is then weighed.

“They are then given a form to fill in the weight of the items and then they are paid accordingly,” he says.

Smekal says that the “trolley pushers” start work at 05:30. They are required to pick up a trolley at the depot and then head out to do their rounds collecting recyclables on bin day.

“They are not allowed to separate the waste when out on the streets. Their aim is to go through the waste in the bin and put back the non-recyclables without creating any mess,” he says.

Peter Nel, an employee at the depot is who Smekal refers to as the top recycler – as he is the main collector and sorter of goods. Nel has taken on the role of organising the other collectors into teams.

“Peter is a fantastic coordinator who shows a lot of potential and is a great leader. He not only works for himself, but has the patience to show others how to do what he does daily,” Smekal says.

Before Nel became involved in Greentrolley he had already been recycling for over five years. “I have been doing his for a very long time and learned from other people who would take their waste to a depot in Retreat. This is nothing new to me, but I appreciate the guidance from Heinz. He really shows interest in us and not just what we do to make a living,” he says.

Nel says he jumped at the opportunity when Heinz stopped him along the road before the opening of Greentrolley.

“I was excited to hear that here would be a depot as it is extremely far and tiring to have to push the trolley and walk that far to Retreat. It was also frustrating as I was only able to collect and drop-off one load a day due to the distance,” he says.

However, Nel says he can now collect and sort and drop-off three loads a day. “By working in teams we are able to collect more and once we are paid for the waste we split our earnings, by a meal and save some for a “rainy day”.

Smekal says he and his partner Mike are now in the process of finding sponsors to donate uniforms as well as identity cards to the employees to ensure they can be identified when out on the road collecting the waste. “We want them to feel like they are part of a cohesive team and if someone wants to report any inappropriate behaviour they would be easily identifiable,” he says. Smekal adds that along with the uniforms they are also in the process of making their very own trolleys.


Anyone interested in the project or wanting to donate uniforms to them can contact Smekal on 021 712 4062

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