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eThekwini planning to revive the orange bag project

Filled orange plastic bags on a street corner.

The eThekwini Municipality plans to relaunch and reconfigure the orange bag recycling programme. File Picture: African News Agency (ANA) Archives.

Published Jul 21, 2023


Durban - EThekwini Municipality is planning to revive the orange bag recycling initiative that has been rendered defunct in most areas of the city for some time.

The recycling project had been beset with problems over the past few years due to issues with the non-delivery to or collection of the bags from ratepayers’ properties.

In addition, The Mercury reported some years ago on the allegations related to the alleged irregular awarding of a multimillion-rand contract for the supply of the bags.

In a council document that came before a full council meeting recently, the municipality acknowledged that the project yielded benefits for the city in the past, and this was one of the reasons for the proposal to reconfigure it.

The mooted revival of the orange bag recycling initiative has been widely welcomed by Durban residents, who said when it was working, the programme had benefits for the environment.

The project was meant to encourage recycling by ensuring that only a limited amount of rubbish goes to the landfill sites.

“The Separation at Source Programme, commonly known as the Orange Bag Recycling Programme, supports the vision that is aligned to the Integrated Waste Management Plan of seeing waste as a valuable resource. It is further aligned to the Integrated Development Plan as well as the Waste Management Strategy that are legislative requirements,” read the report that was presented to council.

Some of the benefits listed by the report include:

  • Behavioural changes because of the education on the benefits of recycling to the environment and opportunities to build a resource economy.
  • Waste diversion, which has seen a reduction of waste that is taken to landfill sites because of recycling.
  • The programme has served as a catalyst for the education and participation of the previously disadvantaged in the circular economy.

The report explained that the project ran into problems in 2017 when the company that the City had an agreement with to purchase recyclable materials closed its recycling plant.

“The closure of the plant negatively impacted the efficient operation of the programme as the collectors had to find alternative markets for their recyclables. Secondly, the rates of recyclables were no longer guaranteed. Thirdly, the collectors assumed the cost of sorting the recyclables.”

It further noted that the municipality’s contribution to the project included the supply of the plastic bags to the collectors and the operating premises.

According to the report, which was approved by council, the reconfigured Orange Bag Recycling Programme will be rolled out by spatially targeting geographic catchments that are sustainable.

The acting head of Cleansing and Solid Waste was further requested to report back to council on the reconfigured programme.

A number of eThekwini residents supported the revival of the initiative by the City, saying if it was done efficiently it would be a positive move.

They have insisted, though, that there should be transparency and accountability about who gets the contract for the project to eliminate corruption and ensure that it is a success.

“The plan needs to be clear and we should know who is running the project so that we don’t have some tenderpreneurs that do not do what is expected of them,” said one local activist.

A member of the Tongaat Civic Association, Don Perumal, said the recycling project had resulted in visible change, and they had been shocked when it was discontinued without any warning.

“To be honest, it was working. That is why we were shocked when it ended without explanation, so if it were revived we would welcome it,” he said.

The Westville Ratepayers’ Association’s Asad Gaffar confirmed that in his area they were receiving the orange bags, saying this was a result of appeals to the municipality to provide local residents with the bags.

“It started about three months ago because we have been putting pressure on the City, and our position is that if we partner as residents and ratepayer bodies we can achieve much.

“It would be selfish not to share information with each other,” said Gaffar yesterday.