WATCH | Safeguarding food security by recycling - Joburg residents swop waste for food

  • An initiative between two Johannesburg NGOs allows members to exchange recyclable materials for food and other essential items.
  • Weekly, more than 90 people from the east of Johannesburg participate in the programme.
  • The recyclable materials collected are used for other sustainable projects, like art. 

    Two Johannesburg-based non-governmental organisations are changing the way people in the east of the city do business.

    Love Our City Klean (LOCK) and Makers Valley have collaborated to facilitate a system, in which residents of Lorentzville can access food and other essential items by donating recyclable materials.

    "A clean city is a safe and interactive city where people want to be. Johannesburg is a big meeting point for the world, and I'd like to see it becoming a leader in environmental efforts," co-founder of LOCK, Zwelihle Maqwaza, told News24.

    The beginning of LOCK

    LOCK is a waste management start-up founded in 2016. Its primary focus is creating awareness about the benefits of recycling and waste management. 

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    The charity hosts clean-up campaigns, garden workshops for children, and other projects to promote an environment-friendly lifestyle.

    Five years later, it has expanded its operations.

    Johanna “Jojo” Monama and Sandra van Oostenbrugge
    Johanna “Jojo” Monama and Sandra van Oostenbrugge run the community swap shop.

    A partnership made in recycling heaven

    LOCK now has an alliance with Makers Valley.

    "It was tough times, people were not working, others lost jobs, many people were affected by the pandemic," said Johanna "Jojo" Monama. 

    Monama, a resident of Lorentzville, runs the swop shop, along with Makers Valley coordinator Sandra van Oostenbrugge. 

    During Level 5 lockdown, Monama conducted a door-to-door survey to evaluate the needs of the community. 

    "The reality is that poverty was in this area before the pandemic. Most people have been struggling for years," she said.

    Monama and Van Oostenbrugge, along with about 80 volunteers, established a soup kitchen, which operated three times a week at Victoria Yards during the "hard lockdown".

    However, as lockdown restrictions eased, several people could return to work and no longer needed help from the soup kitchen.

    "We wanted to find a way to continue supporting those who were still struggling, but also empower them at the same time," said Van Oostenbrugge.

     Residents around Lorentzville use points earned f
    Residents around Lorentzville use points earned from collecting recyclable materials for food at the community swap shop.

    They had a surplus of food donations and reached out to LOCK to see how they could leverage the situation.

    Earn points and save the planet

    The collaborators came up with a points system.

    Every recyclable item, which community members bring to LOCK, earns points - and they can use those points at the Makers Valley swop shop to purchase food, toiletries, books, and other essentials.

    "About 80 to 90 members of the community show up to drop off recyclables, and (at) the same amount of people shop weekly at the swop shop," Magwaza said. 

    The partnership has been going strong for almost a year.

    As the initiative grows in the Lorentzville area, LOCK hopes to expand the programme into communities, like Alexandra, in the future.

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