Solid Waste Network Social Enterprise Project

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Focus Areas: Livelihoods

The Solid Waste Network (SWN) project has over 350 informal waste pickers (mostly from Khayelitsha settlement) gain access to markets, creating an interface between communities and industry. This social enterprise model sees the informal waste pickers get support from the collection and management team. Groups work in teams of 3 to 10 members. 40-60 tonnes of solid waste is removed from informal settlements, per month. The tonnage capacity of groups determines their monthly income, which ranges from R800 – R2 000 per month per individual. 5 full time staff are employed at the sorting depot in Philippi. The project creates capacity for such work in poor communities. Women have been the focus of the programme and have been active in the community around community savings before commencement of SWN activity. In areas where a quantity of waste is consistently sorted per month, sorting points are conveniently located for the truck to pick up waste. The network meets monthly to discuss learning about the recycling industry as well as policy developments. The SWN have a small budget which places limitations on the project’s capacity.

The SWN has built relationships with various industries through the project, including paper, plastic, and glass companies. It is increasingly seen as a stakeholder in the industry, and has national working relationships with The Glass Recycling Company (TGRC) and the Plastic Federation (PETCO). It has an impact on upliftment of communities in that the majority of the SWN volunteer for various community initiatives including food security for vulnerable people and orphans; gender based violence, and HIV/AIDS. Policy will only change when the SWN model goes to scale. It is planned that it will be scaled up in cities in Gauteng, Eastern Cape, and Kwa-Zulu Natal. National learning exchanges are happening to ensure this. 

Location: Cape Town, South Africa
Bunita Kohler (+27) 21 689 9408 View Website
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Project information updated: 04 April 2014

Project in depth

Detailed Information

The South African Alliance of the Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC), Informal Settlement Network (ISN), Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), and uTshani, the national urban poor fund, embarked on this project in 2006. The Informal Settlement Network established links with recycling groups in Nairobi and Cairo, participating in learning exchanges, in 2005. The following year a trailer and truck had been purchased to support the beginnings of recycling activity. The project responded to the City of Cape Town’s crisis in solid waste management, landfill sites increasingly experiencing capacity. There is little historical organizational and institutional capacity to address this.
The SWN covers over 60% of its operational budget through revenue generated through project activity. It has launched a research agenda into value-added products (note pads, gift cards, drinking glasses, firestarters from recycled paper, bags, etc) to increase revenue and thus sustainability of the project.

Implementing Partners

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

South African SDI Alliance

Norway Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The Rockefeller Foundation