By Gabi Falanga
Grahamstown’s rubbish dump is filling up and new legislation states that no more permits for new landfill sites will be issued. In other words, when Grahamstown’s rubbish dump is full, it is full.
Last year, Rhodes University generated 279 tons of recyclable materials. This is the equivalent of 46 male elephants. This year, in January alone, a staggering 31 tons (5 male elephants) was collected. Mark Hazell, the Manager of Grounds and Gardens at Rhodes, said the amount of recyclables that Rhodes produces is increasing substantially. “We are not even collecting a third of the recycling. If we were, this figure would be more like 1200 tons a year,” he said. This is the equivalent of 1333 cars the size of a VW Citi Golf.
“So what?”, you may ask. Well, imagine this amount of elephants and Citi Golfs being put into our landfill site every year. Hazell said that 80 percent of what Rhodes sends to the landfill is recyclable. Added to that is the normal amount of waste that Rhodes produces. Then there is the rest of Grahamstown’s rubbish that goes in there as well. This means that, very soon, the rubbish dump will be full and with no where else for our rubbish to go. It looks like we may have to start contemplating how we are going to live surrounded by our own waste. Just imagine wading through stinking, trash-filled streets.
This is only one good reason why we as students should be taking recycling seriously. Recycling and re-using as many materials as possible will not only relieve this problem, but it will also help to take pressure off our fast disappearing natural resources.
In the past, the Grounds and Gardens team used to take the University’s paper and card recycling up to Grahamstown Recycling, but they have stopped doing this due to transport costs and other financial reasons.
Nikki Kohly, Rhodes’ Safety and Environmental Officer, said Rhodes has a moral obligation to continue recycling and, as a result, they have set up a task team to investigate various possibilities. This task team is in charge of recycling for the Rhodes campus as a whole. The team is headed by Joss Wellman, of the Centre for Entrepreneurship, and Hazell. On a student level, a group of students have started a residence recycling project to feed into the task team’s project.
The recycling task team is looking at numerous possibilities, such as finding a suitable site on campus where a mini recycling depot can be set up. For now, one of the biggest problems is finding a site that is feasible. The depot would have to be close enough to main campus so that transport and transport costs do not become an issue, but it can not be too close to residences and departments. Another challenge is ensuring that no organic waste goes into the depot, as this will attract rats, insects and snakes. The recycling task team is also thinking of ways in which Rhodes could reuse the materials, such as compacting paper to use as a source of fuel. It could also be processed into toilet paper.
The student-run residence recycling project is a very recent initiative.
Representatives from Green Revolutions and Social Solutions (GRASS), Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), Rhodes University’s Mountain Club (RUMC), Prince Alfred House and the Student Representative Council (SRC), met with Kohly and Hazell and came up with a plan to start recycling in residences.
Recycling in each residence will be managed by the environmental representative for that residence. Residences that do not have an environmental representative will have a chance to nominate and vote for representatives. Curwin Slabbel, from SIFE, spoke about how the environmental representative will be responsible for creating awareness in their residence and keeping the students motivated. The environmental representatives will also have to take the recycling to a central collection point on certain days. They will be assisted in this regard, as well as provided with boxes by the student team.
Recycling will start in Kimberly Hall, as they have already implemented residence recycling of their own accord. Thereafter, it will be executed in one hall at a time and adjustments will be made by the student team as they go along, according to what is and isn’t working. This project aims to create awareness and to initiate recycling in as effective and as easy a way as possible. Kati Auld from GRASS emphasised the importance of keeping students interested and enthusiastic. She suggested running a competition between halls in the future as an incentive for students to recycle.
As far as digs recycling is concerned, GRASS has recently started a digs greening project aimed at making student digs environmentally friendly on a student budget. Cathleen O’Grady, also from GRASS, said they will be handing out pamphlets with information on how to do this. As part of this, GRASS encourages students living in digs to use the municipality’s new two-bag system, where waste as well as recycling is collected.
These initiatives can only be successful with the support of us, the students. So get involved and get excited when recycling hits your residence. Let’s keep those elephants out of our landfill site!