80 tons of waste collected during two months of lockdown in Cape Town CBD
Cape Town – Cleaning the streets of a deserted Cape Town Central City is still dirty work – even during the nationwide lockdown that initially saw the busy CBD stripped of its usual footfall – with cleaners from the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID) collecting 44.5 tons of waste in March 2020 and 35.5 tons of waste in April.
Statistics released by the CCID’s Urban Management department reveal that cleaners contracted to the CCID via J&M Services picked up, on average, 40 tons of rubbish in March and April.
While this is a drop from the average 72 tons per month the CCID picked up in the CBD in 2019, it is still a surprising amount of waste for a CBD shut down by measures to stem the tide of a global pandemic.
The CCID offers a top-up cleaning service in the CBD, in addition to that provided by its partner, the City of Cape Town. Its heroic cleaners, together with those from the City, have been on the frontline providing an essential service since the lockdown began on 26 March 2020.
And as Level 4 measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus enter their final week, stoic cleaners will remain on the frontline, working hard to clean the CBD.
It’s a relentless, expensive task, keeping the Central City grime-free. In 2019, the CCID spent R30 000 per day to clean the CBD, amounting to an annual spend of R11 million.
This is in addition to the standard removal of waste (which includes litter as well as organic matter such as leaves, twigs and soil) by the City of Cape Town.
What’s more, cigarette butt litter, collected from the CCID’s 300 cigarette butt bins, usually amounts to over 1 000kg per year. Last year, the CCID collected 1 763 kg of cigarette butts from the CBD.
Cigarette butt litter during lockdown has been minimal as the footfall of people entering and leaving the city centre has been very low, with desperate smokers actually tipping over many of the nearly empty bins in search of an “entjie” or two.
Kally Benito, assistant manager of CCID Urban Management, says the CCID’s cleaning teams, contracted via J&M Cleaning Services and NGO Straatwerk, have had to be agile in adjusting to the new circumstances presented by Covid-19.
“We have been operating with J&M cleaning teams in the CBD, with a roaming team from Straatwerk only doing ‘hot-spot’ cleaning and litter picking where required,” says Benito.
Level 5 and 4 restrictions have given the department the “rare opportunity” to focus on deep cleaning and sanitising specific zones and attending to much-needed maintenance projects.
Benito says: “As we slowly step into lower levels of lockdown, we will still need to ramp up our current levels of de-sanitising the streets to keep the public safe.
"Sanitising the CBD efficiently and effectively is important to reassure people – from business owners to employees, customers and residents - who will return to work and to do business here that their safety is of prime concern.”
The safety of the cleaning teams is also of utmost important, Benito emphasised. As essential workers, the street cleaning teams were given stringent re-education on hygiene and sterilisation protocols and learning new steps to be taken for additional protocols.
The issuing of personal protection equipment (PPE) before each shift, regular hand-washing breaks and decontamination steps before and after each shift are now mandatory for every employee.
“When the CBD returns to full functionality again, keeping the busy streets of downtown Cape Town at a higher hygiene standard can help build trust from global markets,” says Benito.
“We are so fortunate to have a committed group of front-line cleaning staff who have been active since lockdown began, and who have worked tirelessly to keep up with our risk-reduction strategies. The economy depends on us now.”