Coast KZN

30 Apr 2020

From waste to gain: Green projects offer community, environmental solutions

(Berea Mail) Picture: Jabulani Ngwenya and Sifiso Luvuno - Green Team community members from Johanna Road clear the waste from the litter boom on an Umgeni River tributary. Photo Val Adamson

GREEN Corridors, a non-profit organisation has developed “green” spaces and programmes around eThekwini communities to help them thrive in balance with the habitats around them, hopes that some of its programmes will pave the way for communities to access economic opportunities that work hand-in-hand with environmental solutions.

In 2018 Green Corridors began developing innovations to meet the needs of the many urban environmental challenges such as litter and waste collection, and its removal and repurpose, while at the same time developing a model for the process to be community managed for the creation of small localized economies. The KwaMashu Materials Beneficiation Centre is one of the NPO’s pilot programmes that speaks to a solution to the challenge. Here a small community team works together with technical consultant project manager Jonathan Welch, to find solutions to how waste from various sources can be repurposed and monetized. This process means waste is removed, and economic opportunities created for local communities, and the ecosystems around them have the potential to improve and thrive.

Sphesihle Hadebe (front in red shirt), Nhlanhla Nyandeni (back) and Simo Mabaso (right) work on the prototype for a gabion made from recycled building rubble and wire at the KwaMashu Materials Beneficiation Centre. Photo: Val Adamson

According to Welch, much of our waste is not recyclable in traditional ways, however over a few years with development input by Duncan Doo of the Pyrolysis Group, Green Corridors, is poised to begin manufacturing what is being called the “Ocean Paver”. This uses unrecyclable plastic waste that is collected from litter booms in the tributaries of the Umgeni River, which is mixed with crushed glass bottles collected within the communities, and made into square pavers for walkways similar to concrete pavers used in landscaping and driveways.

According to Welch, the KwaMashu Materials Beneficiation Centre is much like a “laboratory” in that is looks at how resources can be used – whether these are man-made or natural or waste.

“Importantly we see how these can benefit both the environment and community. We are now piloting a programme of how these waste removal and repurposing processes can be funneled into creating employment for communities and provide revenue streams.”

Another project which has been developed at the Centre includes using waste grass and cuttings from the City’s Parks and Recreation Department to create Bokashi (non CO2 releasing decomposition) compost which can then be used in community vegetable gardens/ schools /by the City for use in parks and green spaces. The Centre is also using fibre harvested from invasive alien plants and combining it with concrete to make green pavers. In March the team successfully experimented using builders’ rubble encased in welded wire cages to make a gabion retaining wall, which can be used to stop erosion or create stability of slopes. “A simple skill of creating supporting gabions from waste with little financial requirements output, may be able to provide unemployed people with work opportunities.”

After the rains, plastic waste and other litter washes down the rivers into the sea. The innovative litterboom manages to stop a lot of waste, but more is needed to educate people on not throwing litter down storm water drains, and into waterways which ultimately reach the sea. Photo: Val Adamson

“These are small steps to look at what resources can be used to solve the many environmental challenges the City faces, but central to the success of this is community involvement so that revenue streams can be created to allow for an organic development of economic opportunities for people,” says Welch.

“The programme has been funded and supported by the eThekwini Municipality’s Economic Development Unit and the Roads and Stormwater Department as one of the endeavours to remove plastic waste from the City’s rivers and to create a circular economy by turning the plastic and glass waste into a product with value,” explains Gary Cullen, Project Manager in the Economic Development Unit. “Tests have been done by the Municipality’s Engineering Unit, and they established that our glass and plastic Ocean Paver is twice the strength, resistant to chipping and slightly lighter than an equivalent concrete paving slab.”

“The next phase of the project is to begin the manufacturing of the paver to assess the economic feasibility and whether we can put the Ocean Paver into the market at a price competitive with concrete pavers,” says Welch. “