eThekwini Municipality takes bold strides towards zero waste

Bins with organic waste. Picture: Warwick Zero Waste Project Team

Bins with organic waste. Picture: Warwick Zero Waste Project Team

Published Feb 2, 2024


In a significant leap towards sustainable waste management, eThekwini Municipality, building on the triumph of Durban's Warwick Zero-Waste (WZW) Project, has inked a three-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with civil society partners.

The MOU sets the stage for collaborative efforts between the municipality, the Urban Futures Centre (UFC) at Durban University of Technology (DUT), non-governmental organisations, and groundWork.

Originating in 2021 as a grassroots collaboration, the Warwick Zero-Waste Project initially brought together eThekwini Municipality, informal traders, waste workers, and NGOs. The success of the initiative, aimed at managing organic waste in the Markets of Warwick, prompted the formalisation of a partnership through the recently signed MOU.

The MOU focuses on three crucial eThekwini Municipality Units: Business Support, Markets, Tourism, and Agribusiness Unit (BSMTAU), Cleansing and Solid Waste (CSW) Unit, and Parks, Recreation, and Culture (PRC) Unit. Together, they are committed to the effective management of organic waste, diverting it from landfills to produce nutrient-rich compost.

Dr Tamlynn Fleetwood, co-investigator at the UFC and lead of the composting pilot, emphasises that the “rethinking and restructuring our waste management systems and practices is important. The Warwick Zero-Waste project has unlocked economically viable solutions that are socially and environmentally just.”

Starting modestly by diverting organic waste from the Warwick Early Morning Market, the project aims to gradually scale up operations with the ultimate goal to divert the entire 400 tonnes of waste generated by the market annually. This not only reduces the city's solid waste removal costs but also contributes to mitigating climate change by curbing methane emissions from landfills.

The organic waste diverted is transformed into compost at the Durban Botanic Gardens, creating a closed-loop model. This compost benefits the PRC Unit, providing tonnes of rich compost for parks and green spaces in the city at no additional cost.

In late November 2023, the WZW Project initiated a zero-waste municipal learning exchange, connecting eThekwini Municipality with counterparts in the Western Cape. The exchange, focused on managing organic waste at scale, separation at source, recycling, and waste picker integration interventions, laid the foundation for future collaborations.

“My take-away from this project is that as local government, we can now scale up operations and look for ways to maximise benefits, including possible avenues for commercialisation,” said Thulani Nzama, Head of the eThekwini Municipality’s Business Support, Markets, Tourism and Agribusiness Unit.

The MOU formalises the commitment of the municipality's three participating Units to support the scale-up of the organic waste to compost pilot. It aligns with the principles of zero-waste, promoting inclusive, regenerative, circular economies in urban settings.

“Relationship building is important to maximise the positive impact of the partnerships. There has never been a more critical moment than the present to up our collective efforts to mitigate human induced climate change.”

“The harmful effects of climate change are real and pressing and have disproportionate risks for marginalised and vulnerable communities. Through better management of our organic waste (including food and garden waste), and our recyclables, we can activate mutually beneficial economic and social wins and mitigate climate change,” Dr Fleetwood concluded.

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