Dump losing the battle

2019-01-09 15:30
Waste pickers dig through one of the heaps of uncompacted rubbish at the New England Road landfill site.

Waste pickers dig through one of the heaps of uncompacted rubbish at the New England Road landfill site. (Nokuthula Ntuli)

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The city’s New England Road dump is overwhelmed with rubbish due to bad management and broken machinery.

Adding to the load is the fact that the dump is also being used by neighbouring municipalities, including uMshwati and Mooi-Mpofana, which do not have their own.

Staff say uncompacted rubbish has been piling up for months as they are only able to do the minimum of what they could be doing.

They blame Msunduzi for failing to repair or replace broken equipment and not buying trucks needed to transport the waste to the part of the landfill where it can be compacted.

“We are receiving more waste than we are able to compact and that’s why you see these heaps all over. If the municipality doesn’t start prioritising the issue of compactors and other equipment, then the Department of Environmental Affairs might need to intervene to prevent the looming disaster,” said one of the workers.

He said one of the main machines required for the proper functioning of the site was a Bomag compactor, but it had been broken for more than a year.

He said it was claimed that more than R1 million was required to fix it and there were rumours that Msunduzi was considering buying a new one or getting a machine of the same calibre.

“There is a Caterpillar that we are using at the moment, but it breaks down regularly because it doesn’t have the same strength as the Bomag. It’s overused to make up for not having a proper compactor.”

Apparently several appeals had also been made to the municipality for trucks to cart waste dumped at the entrance and on pathways but only two were received last year and one had last week been booked out for repairs for more than a month.

In November The Witness reported that the City had a grand plan to build an integrated waste plant to relieve the load on the site. The facility would convert non-recyclable waste into energy, with hopes to increase the site’s depleting life span with more than a decade.

However, the workers at the site believed the plant would collapse within months of opening if it was as poorly managed as the landfill site.

They said the municipality had failed to run a proper recycling programme. “The funds for maintaining the equipment and buying trucks for carting the rubbish could actually be generated from recycling, but the municipality is sleeping on it.”

They showed The Witness where 10 containers were supposed to be stationed where the public could drop their recyclables, but there was only one there. The dump has more than 300 “illegal” recyclers operating within the site. They sell their recyclables to businesses, but none of the proceeds go to the municipality.

Samson Ajuzie, who has been in the recycling business for seven years, has employed three people to collect plastic at the site. After paying his staff and transport costs, he said he took home no less than R6 000 monthly. “It’s not much, but I’m making an honest living and I’ve managed to create jobs for other people as well,” he said.

Ajuzie said he would be making more if he also collected wood and metal. “There is a lot of building rubble that ends up here and most of it can be used on other construction projects,” he said.

Several waste pickers who spoke to The Witness said they took home more than R2 500 monthly. Most said they feared for the future as they would not be employed at the integrated waste plant since they were not South Africans. “I’ve been here since 2004 and the money I make here supports my family back in Lesotho. I have eight mouths to feed and the only one that makes decent money in my family is me,” said Nthabeleng Ntsoti.

Attempts to get comment from Msunduzi were unsuccessful.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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