Multinational brewing and beverage company, Distell, has stepped up their environmental conservation efforts by launching GreenUp, a new recycling project based in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. Distell partnered with Separation at Source (S@S), beneficiation and implementation partner, to launch the GreenUp programme.
GreenUp, a forward-looking, community change initiative with a focus on a cleaner environment, aims to establish formal, effective operational value chains with regards to the collection, separation and processing of recyclable waste in Khayelitsha. Khayelitsha is the largest informal settlement in the Western Cape and the sixth biggest informal settlement in South Africa. Khayelitsha is growing at an average rate of 2% per year, with an average population of some 450 000 residents.
GreenUp will set-up and develop functional collection points, as well as formal agreements between environmental assistants (waste pickers) and processors or buyers of recyclable waste. This will ensure effective operational implementation and put measures in place to ensure the ongoing sustainability of these sites and associated partnerships. GreenUp also aims to establish a more formal relationship between environmental assistants, waste buy-back centres and taverns in Khayelitsha.
Recycling – formalising waste management networks and value chains
Distell sees GreenUp as an exciting project through which to further align its operational activities with its sustainability objectives. Distell sustainability manager and GreenUp project sponsor Eric Leong Son says; “We have made significant inroads over the past few years in crafting our business to be sensitive and responsive to the impact we make on the environment.
“By partnering with S@S in formalising networks or value chains in Khayelitsha’s waste management efforts, we also aid in combating socio-economic challenges, empowering individuals within this fast-growing community,” he explains.
The factors driving waste generation include urban growth, economic development, population growth and employment levels. In its turn, these factors affect goods and services, with a resulting impact on waste generation. It is estimated that the Western Cape generates 7.7-million tons of waste every year, with the City of Cape Town contributing 48% of the total.
While some inroads have been made, the statistics remain a concern. Kathryn Warner of S@S says; “The cost of landfilling in Cape Town keeps climbing, as a result of municipal waste services’ rising operating costs. Compliance costs associated with national legislation further adds to the financial burden.”
“The waste industry in South Africa primarily consists of waste collection and landfilling, with as little as 10% of recycling. However, it is estimated that 65% of the waste – approximately 38 million tons – is recyclable and could subsequently be diverted from landﬁll and recovered to be reprocessed or repurposed,” Warner says.
“We are experiencing an increased diversion of waste from landfill towards recycling and recovery. Moreover, the government is increasingly focusing on the waste economy as a job creator through various green economy policies and strategies,” she adds.
Sustainable income for environmental assistants
“The vitality of Khayelitsha is what makes it a place of interest for corporate social investments such as Distell’s GreenUp programme,” says Warner. Although Khayelitsha is one of the fastest-growing townships in South Africa, it is also still one of the poorest informal settlements in the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape.
Leong Son says Distell is, additionally, embarking on this project as a result of the focus area’s close proximity to its operations in Stellenbosch. “We need to tap into a number of opportunities within our value chain, which may not be a traditional fit, but they enable us to make a greater impact within society. S@S helps to support the waste management efforts in lower-income communities such as Khayelitsha that serves as our project target area, by empowerment through mentorship and skills transfer,” he says.
An important aspect of the GreenUp programme includes the creation of sustainable income streams for environmental assistants in Khayelitsha. “We are doing so by supporting designated environmental assistants with the necessary training, resources and access to recyclable waste buy-back centres in close proximity to their working environments,” says Warner.
“South Africa has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world. The majority of unemployed people in South Africa live and operate within the informal economy. Waste recycling makes up a large part of South Africa’s informal economy in low-income settlements and industrial areas,” she adds.
The GreenUp project will ultimately contribute to a cleaner environment, creating at least 200 sustainable income streams and registered suppliers with waste buy-back centres. Additionally, it will unlock opportunities towards making a positive difference in the lives of the people living in the communities in which Distell operates. “We are excited to witness the results of the GreenUp project, and will be sharing accounts of those involved as environmental assistants and workers at buy-back centres going forward,” says Leong Son.
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