When it comes to recycling, the prospect of generating some income can be a powerful motivating force. Bushbuckridge Municipality in Mpumalanga has recently partnered with the University of South Africa (Unisa) to find ways of improving waste management in its communities.
This programme will assist in increasing local residents’ knowledge of recycling, while simultaneously formalising the waste economy – with income-earning possibilities maximised in the sector. Another objective of this programme is addressing the fast-rising unemployment in the area, by tackling the environmental issues caused by litter.
Manageable and affordable solutions for waste management
The municipality examined the status of waste management in its communities and decided to tap into Unisa’s academic research on waste management and indigenous knowledge systems. This was done in order to find manageable and affordable solutions to deal with its waste, according to Levy Mokoena, the municipality’s waste management manager.
“It’s a municipality’s responsibility to address waste management issues within a society. As a municipality, we service villages, townships and business centres. Unfortunately, as a rural municipality, we generate limited revenue, which limits our waste management efforts when it comes to reaching certain parts of our jurisdiction,” says Mokoena.
Bushbuckridge Municipality has now partnered with Unisa and is encouraging residents to recycle wherever they can. This is expected to help improve the municipality’s recycling rates. “Our mission, in partnership with Unisa, is to support existing recyclers by making them realise the potential of a clean, healthy environment and opportunities to earn an income,” says Mokoena.
Cultural understanding required before implementation
Unisa encourages the national government to purchase materials from recyclers, as is done in European countries and the United States. The university also encourages people to recycle specific materials, plastic in particular, as it is often burned, creating a major health hazard.
Fani Machete, Unisa associate professor in environmental issues, says that recycling can be a good source of income for some people. However, he stresses that recycling should be formalised. “Many recyclers have given up on their efforts because of the small amounts of money they received, unaware of the great financial potential that recycling offers,” says Machete.
Machete added that it is also crucial to understand people’s cultures – and why they think the way they do – before the appropriate waste management strategies can be implemented in a specific region.
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