A pair of teens from Amaoti, in Inanda near Durban, have taken on the challenge of recycling.
Banele Machi, 15, and her brother Wandile, 13, go out on to the streets of their poverty-stricken area about 30km north west of Durban and collect plastic, paper, glass and plastic bottles, bread tags and 2 litre bottle lids.
They were introduced to the idea by their mother, Bongi Machi, a domestic worker who was in turn encouraged to take on the idea by her employer in Glen Ashley.
The employer provides the teens with bags in which to collect the rubbish, and other than the bottles and paper that can be deposited in recycling bins, takes what they have collected and sends it on to projects such as the Bread Tags for Wheelchairs project.
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These tags, as well as plastic lids from milk, juice and water bottles, are made of high impact polystyrene. A bread bag will hold 1kg of tags, and it takes 200kg of tags to bring in enough money to buy a single wheelchair.
And one of the beneficiaries of the project has been the teens’ uncle, who had a stroke and has now been given a wheelchair.
The teens’ father, Lucky Machi, says the pair have been collecting material for recycling for the past couple of months, and often go out after school, any time they are free.
“I think it’s a good thing that they are doing. It is better to live in a clean environment, but often around here people just throw their rubbish away on the street. We stay near the river, and plastics are bad for the water and the fish. Also my children’s efforts help to stop too much plastic getting into the sea.”
The teens also make ecobricks by stuffing fine plastic into 2l bottles, for use in river booms which help trap plastics floating down rivers into the ocean.
Machi says he’s proud of his children, but feels they and other township children need more environmental information.
“They don’t seem to get this sort of information at school. That is a gap. They need to understand the consequences of plastic and other pollution and what can be done about it. Everyone can help.”