More about the recycling campaign

We attended the General Meeting of the Pinelands Residents and Ratepayers Association last night. It was a very interesting meeting, with the guest speaker being Bertie Lourens of WastePlan, the chaps who are in charge of the waste recycling project that is being piloted in a handful of suburbs across the Cape Peninsula (Pinelands, Parklands, Melkbosstrand and Bloubergstrand).

I’d written about this in April when we received a flyer informing us that Pinelands was doing extremely well with about 88% of households participating in the recycling project.

I’d spoken with Bertie on the phone to complain about the vagrants who tear open our rubbish bags and leave a disgusting mess (which is left to me to clean up of course). So it was very nice to meet him in person and to be able to ask questions. He is a very approachable, soft-spoken man who clearly has a passion for recycling but also much compassion for the destitute people living on the streets.

Bertie told us how his company had started to tackle the vagrant issue in quite an innovative way.

The suburb of Pinelands is divided into sections, which have their rubbish collected by the City Council on different days. So the vagrants know exactly when the residents of specific streets place their rubbish outside. By patrolling these streets regularly in the last few months since the project was first implemented in November 2007, Bertie and his team have identified about 20 regulars who go through the rubbish bins as soon as they are placed on the pavement. Instead of chasing them off, they started speaking with them and asking them what they were looking for, and finding out what they were doing with the recyclable materials they were collecting.

And then they started to come to an agreement with them: Bertie and his team offered them a slightly better rate for the recyclable materials; not only does this make Bertie’s job easier, but the vagrants are assured of a more regular amount of money. They are also issued with proper yellow bibs (clearly saying ‘Waste Plan’), and an identification tag with the telephone number of WastePlan on it. (As all of them sleep on the street, though, they tend to lose both the bib and the tack quite regularly.)

“So,” said Bertie, “if you put your rubbish out, and you see someone scratching through it and tearing the bags open and emptying everything out and making a mess, you can approach them, and ask to see their bibs and identification tags. If they haven’t got them, you are entitled to chase them off or to phone the police. But if they are part of the team of regulars and still make a mess, you should phone the number and let us know that we need to speak with our group again.”

Although this sounds good in theory, most people have to go off to work and so aren’t there to wait for the Council’s rubbish trucks to appear. They just come home to find a huge mess… And even if you do feel brave enough to approach the vagrants, you don’t want to make them cross, or who knows what damage they’ll do. So it’s a tricky situation.

Nonetheless, hats off to Bertie and his Team for trying their best.

And knowing that about 88% of our entire community is onboard and actively supporting recycling, makes my heart feel really warm and glowy.

Great uplifting stuff.

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