Nica Richards

By Nica Richards


Mandatory recycling is here. But how will it work?

We can't just keep dumping like there's no tomorrow. Get ready to know your recyclables from your unrecyclables.

According to environment infrastructure services MMC Nico de Jager, mandatory separation-at-source – recycling at home – has been in the pipeline since 2009.

The reason it has taken the organisation so long to roll out mandatory recycling for residential households is simply because they were not ready. However, they are now confident this campaign will actually save Pikitup money, and not cost residents a cent extra.

He was speaking at Pikitup’s media briefing session last week.

It may seem intimidating, but Pikitup’s mandatory separation-at-source is actually a lot simpler than it seems.

Here’s how it will work:

The bags

Pikitup will be distributing and supplying residents with bags they must put all recyclable material into. The bag will either be clear or blue. Clear bags go to areas where Pikitup facilitates recycling, and the blue bags will go to three areas where the organisation has contractors to facilitate recycling.

Pikitup MD Lungile Dhlamini, Environment MMC Nico de Jager and Pikitup COO Christa Venter demonstrate the two types of bags.

What goes in the bags?

  • Paper, such as newspapers, magazines, accounts and bills. No pizza boxes or milk cartons are recyclable, as these are contaminated.
  • Plastic, such as milk containers and detergent holders. These items must be rinsed out, as failure to do so will contaminate all other recyclables in the bag.
  • Metal and glass, such as soda cans and tin cans, and glass jars, wine bottles, and cooldrink bottles. Just remember to rinse these out too.

Where do I put the bags on rubbish collection day?

On the designated days when Pikitup visits your area to collect waste, put your bag of recyclables out with your 240-litre Pikitup bin. To find out when designated waste collection days are in your area, visit the Pikitup website.

Garden and E-Waste:

Residents are not to put garden waste or electronic waste (E-Waste) in the Pikitup bins. Visit Pikitup’s website for more information on getting rid of this waste in the most sustainable way. Otherwise, visit your local recycling depot and dispose of garden and E-Waste there.

Why make recycling mandatory?

De Jager explained the City of Joburg has just six years of landfill sites left before they are all full to the brim, so the time is now to act, before alternative arrangements must be made.

One aspect of these alternative arrangements that would inspire even the most unsustainable resident to recycle is that this will involve extra costs. This is because the nearest landfill site that could accommodate Joburg’s waste is in Delmas, about 100km from the city. And, because we would be transporting this waste by rail, it would mean residents would have to cough up extra cash. As we do not know what our VAT rates or petrol prices will look like in six years, it’s safe to say recycling is definitely the cheaper option.

Another reason Pikitup needs to make recycling mandatory is that, at the moment, only about 10% of Joburg’s waste is being recycled. That means that 90% of our rubbish ends up in landfill sites. De Jager emphasised that this number must be reduced, and has assigned the City a goal of increasing that figure to 30% by 2020 – a figure that in De Jager’s words is “very doable”.

How will penalties work if you don’t recycle from July 1?

Don’t panic, no one will be getting fined just yet. Pikitup MD Lungile Dhlamini explained that Pikitup’s initiative, although mandatory, was a journey, and that, if anything, penalties would only be rolled out in the upcoming phases of separation-at-source.

“We have a multipronged strategy, particularly in the areas where we are already doing separation-at-source. We want to increase the yield, or the kilograms of recyclable waste generated per household per month,” Dhlamini said.

Rubbish caught by trees that fell into the river.

However, this does not mean you shouldn’t recycle. Pikitup has worked on upgrading their methodologies to accurately measure waste generated in each household each month. So those who neglect to recycle will eventually be caught.

Also, incentives! ‘Pay as you throw’ may be a phrase you will have to repeat to yourself as you rinse your plastics late at night. Dhlamini explained that suburbs that recycled would eventually be rewarded, which would in turn inspire surrounding suburbs that weren’t so keen on recycling to compete so they too could benefit.

What happens to the waste pickers?

De Jager is confident that mandatory separation will make the lives of waste pickers, or reclaimers, significantly easier. This is because, previously, all household waste was crammed into bins that reclaimers had to climb into and sift through. Now all recyclable waste will be accessible in one bag, where reclaimers can take what they need.

Another Pikitup initiative in relation to separation-at-source is the idea of bringing in mobile buy-back centres to reclaimers. In this way, companies buying waste can go straight to reclaimers, weigh the recyclables and take it away. Reclaimers will no longer have to pull trolleys for kilometres on end, and it will free up time for additional rounds to collect more recyclables.

Pikitup is also looking into engaging corporations and strategic partners providing reclaimers with reflective clothing, gloves and maybe even regular inoculations against a host of diseases that linger in our bins.

Dumped waste is a constant eyesore on the streets of Johannesburg, South Africa’s economic hub.
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However, in order for reclaimers to really benefit from mandatory separation-at-source and the aforementioned initiatives, they must register with forums made available by Pikitup.

“We set up a forum from my office and Pikitup, where we work with reclaimer representatives to hear their concerns and take them on. The last thing we want to do is take money away from them. And we want to make it clear that separation-at-source is about involving all role players. We are very much aware of the great work done by reclaimers.”

The responsibility Pikitup has committed to taking on is daunting, but can be achieved if residents get together to realise the organisation’s and the country’s recycling goals.

A Re Sebetseng (let’s work) for a cleaner Johannesburg.

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