Southern Africa faces huge numerous management issues, with South Africa recovering or recycling only 34.5% of its waste in 2017. However, organizations are mobilizing communities to tackle both this issue of waste and poverty through one tactic. Circular economy projects empower disadvantaged communities to clear and upcycle waste, creating income opportunities and helping the environment. Here is some information about some circular economy projects and what they are doing to eliminate poverty in southern Africa.
Wasteland Graced Land Project
Headed by Dreamcatcher Foundation’s Anthea Roussow and University of Brighton waste expert Ryan Woodward, the 2020 Wasteland Graced Land project has helped transform the South African town of Melkhoutfontein into a tourist destination by turning its plastic waste into sellable products. Thanks to a £65,000 grant from the British Council’s Developing Inclusive and Creative Economies, the project has empowered locals to create crafts and souvenirs such as jewelry, toys, mosaics and bowls – all from Melhoutfontein’s waste products. Grant money goes toward paying stipends to crafters and provides a small income for waste collectors, enabling many women and unemployed youth to better provide for their families and develop their business skills.
Flip Flop Recycling Company
Founded by Julie Church in 2005, the Nairobi-based FlipFlop Recycling Company (FFRC) upcycles flip-flops that have washed up on the shores of the Kenyan coast into 100 different products. This includes jewelry – some of which has appeared on the catwalk at Paris fashion week. The company buys flip-flops from women who collect them at the coast, employs workers to wash and repair these flip-flops and pays artisans to rehash the flip-flops into various products which it finally sells to the shop. The FFRC provides communities with business training and multiple income opportunities, employing around 40 people at its Nairobi facility in 2012.
3R Ecopoint Network
3R Ecopoint Network is based in the seaside town of Vilanculos, Mozambique, and is focused on reducing the amount of plastic waste that ends up in the Indian Ocean. However, it has also improved the lives of local waste pickers, who play a vital role in salvaging reusable material yet are socially excluded and often seen as criminals or failures. By setting up secondary collection points which buy recyclable waste and selling this waste to recycling industries, 3R Ecopoint Network has not only reduced waste volumes in Vilanculos but also increased the revenue for waste pickers by 23, 525MZN from 2019-2022. One impacted individual is Teresa Navelane, who is now able to buy basic food items using the income she receives from collecting recyclables.
Watamu Marine Association
Negative perceptions about waste pickers are also an issue in Kenya, where the informal waste management sector continues to suffer without proper infrastructure and government support. The Watamu Marine Association (WMA) assists waste pickers outcast by society by creating a plastic waste value chain running between the local community and tourism industry in Watamu and surrounding areas. WMA has employed 100 waste pickers from disadvantaged backgrounds, who earn a weekly income through the sponsored “Cash 4 Trash” beach clean-ups. This income empowers women and youth to participate in business ventures and improve their living standards.
These four circular economy projects have had a significant impact on the communities they work in. Their continued work should offer livelihoods to many individuals and have an even further effect on the reduction of waste.
– Imogen Scott