People's Post

Lifting the lid on bins

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Green bins intended for pedestrians are a sight for sore eyes. Residents and interest groups are at loggerheads regarding whether they should stay or go.
Green bins intended for pedestrians are a sight for sore eyes. Residents and interest groups are at loggerheads regarding whether they should stay or go.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” the saying goes.

While the placement of green bins in areas where there are high volumes of pedestrian traffic does not quite equate to fire and brimstone, it is raising the question whether they are not doing more harm than good.

The City of Cape Town’s Green Litter Bin Project was implemented in July 2009.

These bins are commonly found in business areas, roads leading to train stations, bus termini and taxi ranks. They are meant for passersby wanting to throw away their chip packets or chocolate wrappers, for example. But it seems some residents are using them to get rid of their household garbage.

Ian Iversen, Ward 59 councillor, says this “bad behaviour” has led to him requesting the City to remove the green bins in some roads where their presence has proved to be a problem. One such example is Bowwood Road in Claremont.

“There were about five green bins located in Bowwood Road and they were constantly overflowing. I went to check it out and found a lot of the bins had household garbage in them,” says Iversen.

He adds that some street people pull the bags out of the bins and tear them open in search of food or recyclable items, leaving the litter spread all over. “We removed all the bins in Bowwood Road about two months ago and the place is spotlessly clean.”

This “bad behaviour” is not unique to Claremont. According to Iversen, similar transgressions have been reported in Harfield Village and Kenilworth. “Residents usually know who the culprits are, but they remain silent. People come to me, saying ‘I know who it is. I see her walking down in her pyjamas at 07:00,” says Iversen.

Gene Lohrentz, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Geocentric Urban Management (the management company of the Wynberg Improvement District), has a slightly different perspective. He believes the green bins are a necessity and adds that WID is planning on increasing the number of green bins in the CBD. “Pedestrians do need something to put their litter in. Our biggest gripe is with the adjacent businesses that use these bins for their waste as well, knowing that WID and the City of Cape Town will service these bins daily,” says Lohrentz.

He says not only does this cause the bins to overflow, but it is also a waste of City and WID resources. “It forces us to use our resources to clean up after businesses. According to the solid waste by-laws and policies, businesses should have their own waste management in place,” says Lohrentz.

The tendency of some taxi operators to remove the inner plastic linings found in green bins is another headache, he says

“They use these plastic linings as buckets to wash cars. Instead of just having to empty the plastic-lined green bins, we now have to wash each bin by hand.”

Xanthea Limberg, the City’s Mayco member for water and waste confirms, the misuse of green bins is a common problem. However, she says there have been occasions where the result of removing litter bins has seen increased littering. “It depends on the area,” she says.

Limberg explains that when the City is approached with a request to remove green bins from a specific area, the it evaluates each case on its own merits.

“An investigation will inform the decision to support or remove a bin,” she adds.

Rather than removing the green bins, she suggests property owners should ensure that there are sufficient wheelie bins to accommodate the volumes of waste generated on their property. The cost of an extra bin is R142 per month (excluding VAT).

“Property owners or landlords, especially those with backyarders or tenants, are required to apply for extra bins to contain waste that cannot fit in the 240 l container.” 

Limberg adds residents can also free up space in their bins by separating recyclable items and taking them to their nearest municipal drop-off facility, free of charge.

A look at the legalities

According to Limberg, it is the responsibility of the City’s cleansing: solid waste management department to empty the green litter bins. In areas with community improvement districts (CIDs), it is a joint responsibility. The frequency at which they are emptied depends on their location – daily for busier areas going down to once a week in less busy areas. 

While having to first rake together strewn about rubbish does place additional strain on the City’s services, Limberg says the ultimate victims are the communities in which this takes place and the natural environment.

“Beyond it being unsightly and unsanitary, increasing the risk of vermin, this practice contributes to flooding when the waste is blown into the stormwater system, and even sewer blockages in the event of there being a stolen manhole cover nearby,” she adds. 

Section 14 (F) of the integrated waste management by-law states that no person may deposit residential, business, industrial, garden, building or hazardous waste in a public litter bin. 

A fine of up to R5 000 can be applied for this.

The City urges residents to help prevent this illegal activity by reporting the matter to the solid waste by-law enforcement unit, including evidence such as photographs so that a fine can be issued. 

Ideally, Limberg says, residents should write down the culprit’s vehicle registration number.

“One of the main challenges with policing illegal dumping is that perpetrators have to be caught ‘in the act’ for justice to run its course,” Limberg says.

  • To report illegal dumping, call 021 444 6231/3 or email solidwaste.bylaw@capetown.gov.za. Alternatively, report it to the City’s call centre on 0860 103 089. To submit a request for an additional bin, call 0860 103 089, go online (www.capetown.gov.za/servicerequests), visit a City walk-in centre (see www.capetown.gov.za/facilities to find the one closest to you) or send an email to wastewise@capetown.gov.za.
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