Cape Town – The Department of Environmental Affairs is planning to integrate South Africa’s waste pickers into the country’s municipal waste management programme, Minister Edna Molewa said in Parliament on Tuesday.
The country has about 62 147 registered waste pickers who remove recyclable material from landfill sites, she told MPs during a debate on the department’s budget of an estimated R6bn.
This year the department plans to help scale up waste recycling enterprises through a recycling enterprise support programme that would provide the initial capital set-up costs for emerging entrepreneurs.
Plans had also been put in place for the management and disbursement of funds through a Waste Management Bureau that would be fully operational in 2016, Molewa said.
In an effort to stop the dumping of hazardous waste, in the past financial year the department has issued 53 Remediation Orders for contaminated sites, and by the end of May hoped to have finally eradicated a backlog of 341 unlawful municipal landfill sites.
But the department still felt that waste management at municipal level was an issue and hoped that integrating the waste pickers into the municipal system would help.
But DA MP Johni Edwards questioned why South Africa was still creating landfill sites in the first place. She said that Sweden used its waste to produce heat and electricity and had no landfill sites left.
If the department was serious about reducing waste, it should start by banning plastic shopping bags and creating jobs through the manufacture of reusable bags instead.
“Why are we still using plastic bags in supermarkets? Why are we actually paying for something that is so harmful to our environment?”
FISITA stands for the Fédération Internationale des Sociétés D’ingénieurs des Techniques de L’Automobile. To make it easier, think of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) on a global scale. Dr. Chris Borroni-Bird, vice president for Strategic Development at Qualcomm has posted a proposal on the FISITA website that calls for a new mobility model for Africa.
The idea is predicated on the fact that much of Africa has little or no formal transportation infrastructure. Therefore, conventional vehicles meant to travel on conventional roads are not suitable for transportation in many parts of Africa. Borroni-Bird proposes that a solar-powered low-speed electric vehicle would be ideal for use in Africa’s poorest communities. Its basic architecture would provide a frame, an electric motor, brakes, and a steering mechanism. Everything else could be constructed inexpensively using materials available locally.
Such a vehicle could enable the growth of commerce at the most basic level. The solar-powered EVs could provide transportation to collect wood from the forest or water from a well. The time saved by not having to do these daily chores on foot would enable the manufacture of local goods that could then become part of a micro-economy. It might also create time that could be used for education and community-building activities.
A low-speed, lightweight vehicle could travel easily between adjacent villages. That could facilitate access to fertilizer to grow crops and a connection to markets to sell goods. It would also expand healthcare opportunities. When not being used for transportation, the vehicle could be used to power water pumps, grind grain, or charge cellphones.
The idea is similar to what Philips is doing with its new line of solar-powered lights designed specifically for rural communities in Africa that do not have access to conventional electrical grids. The lights provide a source of illumination that makes educational and commercial activities possible after sunset for the first time in many parts of the continent.
For many who are not familiar with Africa, it is easy to assume that the vehicles and infrastructure we are accustomed to in the developed world can just be imported to Africa and be useful. We fail to recognize how rudimentary life in much of that continent can be.
What Dr. Borroni-Bird does is simplify the notion of what transportation means for residents of Africa and reduce it to its component parts. It is a classic example of “less is more” thinking. It recognizes that everything we think of as normal in our world is not necessarily what people in other parts of the world need in theirs.