8 June 2020
The model of collaboration between the Litterboom Project, the Pristine Earth Collective, and Vukuzenzele Recycling is showing great potential for improving the health of the city’s rivers.
In the context of developing countries such as South Africa, restoring and maintaining healthy urban waterways is especially challenging. Removing litter once it has entered these waterways is very resource-intensive compared to cleaning on land, and given competing needs in South Africa, the City’s resources for this purpose are not sufficient, considering increasing volumes of especially plastic waste being produced and discarded.
That being said, with the adoption of the City of Cape Town’s Water Strategy: Our shared water future, came a renewed commitment to increase focus on the health of our rivers, vleis, wetlands, and by extension our oceans too. Innovation in this space is necessary, and over the past few years, the City has been exploring, both internally and in consultation with stakeholders, how best to achieve significant improvements using the limited resources available.
One of the most promising initiatives to come out of these engagements was brought to our attention by the Pristine Earth Collective. The PEC had been made aware of a project to install litter booms to catch waste before it reaches the ocean in KZN, run by an organisation called the LitterBoom project. Seeing the potential for schemes such as this in Cape Town, the PEC offered the City resources to maintain the litter booms if they could be installed. They also extended the partnership to include Vukuzenzele Recycling, a co-operative that promotes female empowerment through recycling in informal areas, to manage and repurpose the waste that is collected.
This culminated in three litter booms being installed along the Black River, to trap solid waste litter so that it can be collected and not flow out to the sea. These litter booms are located downstream of the Vygekraal, Blomvlei, Bokmakierrie, Jakkalsvlei, and Elsieskraal Rivers over a 1.5 km stretch. The impact of these booms will be studied, and inform possible future projects/partnerships of this nature. Booms are being cleared of litter and other light waste on a weekly basis.
Special efforts were made to establish this pilot project before the winter rains hit Cape Town to ensure maximum impact.
‘I am personally very excited about the potential of this partnership. Community-led initiatives such as this one create a sense of community ownership of protecting our rivers. All too often, rivers and public spaces are considered to be general dumping grounds. When communities take shared responsibility for cleaning their spaces, it often helps to discourage illegal dumping and littering, resulting in more meaningful, effective and sustainable improvements that lead to positive adaptation of behaviour,’ said Mayoral Committee Member for Water and Waste, Alderman Xanthea Limberg.
City of Cape Town, Media Office