Residents from St James, Kalk Bay and Clovelly are hopeful that curbside collection of recyclables will soon be extended to them.  No longer will their boots rattle resentfully as they transport their recycling to separation centers while residents south of the Silvermine River have theirs collected by the City. The City of Cape Town is in the final stages of negotiating a new tender for the collection of recyclables as well as the `wet waste’ from all residences south of Muizenberg. 

The preferred contractor has been identified and the Dept of Solid Waste’s recommendation is being tabled for approval by Council this week.  Mr. Tseko Magubane of the City’s Think Twice campaign may not tell me who the recommended contractor and associated sub-contractors are until after Council’s decision. Once the tender is awarded it will be advertised for comment for a period of 21 days, which is a legal requirement in the City’s tender process.  Implementation is planned for the end of this year.  (pers com)

It is not clear whether False Bay Recycling on Lekkerwater Road will be one of the sub-contractors.  False Bay Recycling invested a considerable amount of money this year in infrastructure for a legally compliant recycling separation center and also employs at least 25 locals as materials separators.  They provide a much needed local recycling depot and apart from being part of the Think Twice pilot project also collect recyclables from NGOs and businesses in the community and support the Clovelly Recycling initiative funded by residents.

The Think-Twice recycling scheme piloted in Fish Hoek and the communities Southwards was generally considered to be successful and collected recyclables from 70 % of residences. This piloted method along with others run in the City is apparently very costly.  According to Mr. Magubane the understanding that came from these pilot projects is being used to implement a less costly model to collect recyclables from people’s home. Penalties will also be imposed below certain targets on the recycling contractors to incentivize the removal of recyclables from the waste stream.  The City of Cape Town no longer sees landfill as an environmentally, socially or economically acceptable form of waste management.  

While I do look forward to simply being able to put out my recyclables next to my basically empty refuse bin (We compost all out vegetable and garden matter.)  Some alarm bells are ringing for me!!!  If recycling is going to be so easy for households, where is the incentive for consumers to reduce? The packaging industry continues to generate packaging at rates that are unsustainable and unasked for.  With few exceptions this is its business sector – to grow business by producing as much packaging as possible in addition to as many kinds of packaging as they can persuade consumers are ‘needed’. 

 Unless things change fast – and the packaging rate monitor is ticking not humming – consumers are going to spend more and more money on packaging even while the environment is no longer able to absorb the costs. Industry is bringing in levies which consumers will pay for to try and subsidize recycling while the City is increasing its waste collection charges.  We are creating a whole industry of collectors – and I am right up there in support of job creation, but we are not producing enough products from post –consumer waste to support a market for all the recyclables being created.  

Polystyrene and PET 1 trays are good examples of products that are technically recyclable but are not being recycled because collection, transport, washing etc make it too expensive in relation to the recycled product that can be made from it.   The answer lies in REDUCING Packaging first and then only producing packaging that is locally recyclable. Am I being unfair?  I don’t believe so!  Industry has certainly implemented some measures, but to date a third to half of the consumer packaging does not even have recycling information on it. No logo to indicate what kind of plastic it is nor the producer’s phone number with an invitation to phone and find out how to dispose of it responsibly. 

 My vision is for a packaging industry that takes ownership of its products so that they do not end up as waste.  Nature knows no Waste.  What, I wonder, would the decision-makers in the packaging industry think if they were to be born again as archaeologists. How would they explain the packaging residue that is now distributed across the entire face of the world – and some of our landfill sites are refuse piles the size of small mountains!!!  Not exactly a legacy to compare with the Sphinx or the Taj Mahal !!!

KimK – 24 August 2011