Waste pickers receive trolleys to help keep the town clean

GREEN TEAM: Back, from left, Jan de Kock, Bonakalisile Ngqupa, Lihai Bircovich, Nocawe Mata and Sandy Boy. In front Nosiphiwo Mbewana and Phephelaphi Stokwe                        Picture: APHIWE GQWAKA

Komani businesses are throwing their weight behind efforts to beautify the town and change recycling standards.

Last week, Lukhanji Superspar, Komani Steel and Komani4Me partnered with social entrepreneur and founder of recycling company Imbokodo Green, Bonakalisile Ngqupa, to donate two new recycling trollies to four local waste reclaimers.

The initiative is part of a wider drive to keep the town clean by encouraging recycling, while empowering those who are hands-on on the ground to earn a sustainable income.

Imbokodo Green, a company based in Ezibeleni, has been on a mission to stop the recovery of recyclables at the Queenstown dumpsite by waste pickers who earn a living by collecting and selling them to buy-back centres. Ngqupa, who started as a waste reclaimer herself, said the practice had degraded the dignity of waste reclaimers who, at times, found themselves in dangerous situations sorting through the rubbish.

“We have always stated that our core mission was to restore the dignity of waste pickers. The only way people will stop going to the dumpsite is when they understand what people go through to get their waste. This is something that will only change when we change the recycling culture and businesses and individuals sort and manage their recyclables before waste pickers come,” said Ngqupa.

The idea to create trollies for the reclaimers came from Sandy Boy who said the town was behind in waste management. “Other centres are doing this. Johannesburg has these trollies all over. In other towns residents separate their waste. We are not doing that yet. We are behind when it comes to recycling,” said Boy.

The donation was the second by local businesses steered by Komani4Me. The first trolley was donated created by Shell Ultra City Queenstown. Komani Steel owner Jan de Kock, who produced the two new trollies, said the initiative was a brilliant gesture to assist the people who clean the town.

One of the waste reclaimers to receive a trolley was Nocawe Mata from Ezibeleni. Mata used to transport her recyclables using a wheelbarrow or, at times, place a large carrying bag on her head.

Ngqupa said she first met Mata six years ago when she was collecting waste from her rubbish. “She has a friend she always collects the recyclables with. They often travel out of town, as far as the R392 on the way to Lady Frere. Each month they fill 25 bags which they sell either to me or other buy back centres.”

Komani4Me member, Jacqueline Wijtenburg, said the empowerment of waste reclaimers was a sustainable solution towards recycling. “We believe it is for the good of the town – for its safety, dignity and beauty. It is what komani4Me is promoting all the time.

“It is for job creation for those who do not have highly developed skills and bringing Komani into the national trend towards recycling which is good for the earth and our environment in general. It is about giving waste reclaimers public recognition while also giving businesses that would like to contribute a vehicle by getting mileage from the branding,” she said.

Senior manager at Lukhanji Superspar, Bruce Burmeister, said this was a challenge for other businesses to also get involved. “Every business in Komani has the responsibility to contribute to the sustainability of the town. The sustainability of the town means future investments.

“If this small contribution can encourage other businesses to jump in then this is a success. We challenge other businesses in town with a large amount of box-paper waste to allow Ngqupa on to their sites. We have had her on our site for roughly six to 12 months where she places these individuals to sort through our waste and we have not had one problem.

“In our support for Ngqupa, who is attacking the problem with a bottom-up solution, we are driving towards sustainability.”