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Inner City Charter makes green promises
04 June 2007

Still looking at going green, through the commitments in the draft Inner City Regeneration Charter, Neil Fraser gives a potted history of waste, leading to recycling.

Neil Fraser
About Citichat

NEIL Fraser is a partner in 'Neil Fraser & Associates trading as Urban Inc', an urban consultancy dedicated to the revitalisation and regeneration of cities and of the inner city of Johannesburg in particular. He can be contacted on 083 456 0242 or 011 444 4895 or by e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Citichat is a free weekly publication concerning cities generally and Johannesburg specifically. Please forward Citichat to your colleagues who may wish to be placed on the subscription list. To subscribe please contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

READ previous editions of CitiChat

June 11, 2007

THE draft Inner City Regeneration Charter states:

“A key concern of a wide range of stakeholders is the lack of effective management of waste in the inner city. Littering, illegal dumping of waste, poor management of activities such as street trading and on-street taxi-ranking, and the increase in the number of buildings with collapsing management structures, all contribute to the challenge.

“Waste management infrastructure and routine service delivery systems and processes have failed to respond adequately. Enforcement capacity to give effect to by-laws has also been lacking. The challenge will not decline in future. The inner city population will continue to grow significantly in the years ahead. In addition, the inner city economy has begun to revive and new economic activity is beginning to respond to the increases in residential densities. This will bring new businesses such as restaurants that are large contributors to the waste stream.

“Unmanaged waste has a spillover negative effect in other areas. There is a demonstrable relationship between grime and crime. Correspondingly, efforts to remove unsightly waste restore dignity to the inhabitants and users of an area, and conveys to all a public expectation to abide by a set of common norms of conduct. Stricter by-law enforcement on issues such as littering publicly communicates a zero-tolerance approach to all infringements of the law that eventually translates into lower crime levels.

“Desired outcome:
The City of Johannesburg will ensure a clean, waste-free inner city through the development of waste management and cleansing services operating on a 24/7 basis.”

Among eight commitments set out in the draft charter leading to the above desired outcome are the following:

• An additional R99-million injection of operating budget will be allocated to Pikitup in the 2007-08 financial year to build a new system of waste management and street cleaning with a specific focus on the inner city.

• By December 2007, the City will complete the piloting of a new underground bin system for commercial and residential buildings. It will be rolled out across the inner city by 2011.

• By July 2008, the City will introduce a set of measures and incentives to support the development of waste compactors in all new buildings and buildings undergoing major refurbishment.

• By July 2008, the City will launch an inner city recycling programme that will support small- and medium-sized enterprises operating in the inner city to grow sustainable waste recycling businesses.

• By March 2008, by-laws will be revisited to adjust the schedule of fines for illegal dumping, littering and poor management of waste. Capacity to enforce these by-laws vigorously will be built as part of the urban management system.

• Before December 2008, the Gauteng provincial government will lead a major anti-litter campaign in the inner city, with the participation of a wide range of community organisations. The City of Johannesburg will support the campaign.

I've been researching waste and recycling and found a fascinating history of the subject. It is rather detailed so the following are just some of the highlights you may find interesting:

In early pre-industrial times waste was mainly composed of ash from fires, wood, bones, bodies and vegetable waste. It was disposed of in the ground where it would act as compost and help to improve the soil.

Ancient rubbish dumps excavated in archaeological digs revealed only tiny amounts of ash, broken tools and pottery. Everything that could be was repaired and reused, populations were smaller and people lived in less concentrated groups. However, the transition from nomadic hunter-gatherer to farmer meant that waste could no longer be left behind, and it soon became a growing problem.

Until the Industrial Revolution, when materials became more available than labour, reuse and recycling was commonplace. Nearly 4 000 years ago there was a recovery and reuse system of bronze scrap in operation in Europe and there is evidence that composting was carried out in China.

Reuse and recycling has always existed in the form of salvage, an age-old tradition stretching forward to the Rag-and-Bone men. Traditionally, recovered materials have included leather, feathers and down, and textiles. Recycling included feeding vegetable waste to livestock and using green waste as fertiliser. Pigs were often used as an efficient method of disposing of municipal waste.

Timber was often salvaged and reused in construction and ship-building. Materials such as gold have always been melted down and re-cast numerous times. Later recovery activities included scrap metal, paper and non-ferrous metals.

Waste disposal systems
However, as city populations increased, space for disposal decreased, and societies had to begin developing waste disposal systems. The first recorded landfill sites were in Knossos, the Cretan capital, in 3000BC, where waste was placed in large pits and covered with earth at various levels.

Slightly later, a municipal landfill site was opened in Athens and waste had to be transported at least one mile beyond the city gates. In Britain, around 1300AD, in response to the increasing amount of waste deposited in the towns, a law was passed to make householders keep the front of their houses clear of refuse. It was largely ignored - nothing new under the sun.

Medieval German cities required that the wagons that brought produce into the city carried out waste into the countryside.

The Industrial Revolution in the 18th century was a time when the availability of raw materials and increased trade and population stimulated new inventions and the development of machinery. Coal powered machinery could now produce increasingly large quantities of materials quickly and cheaply.

Increased production led to increased waste. Over three-and-a-half million tons of coal were burned in London in a year. The dust was taken to dust-yards. Here men, women and children worked on the heaps of rubbish, sieving the brieze or coarse dust. This was used as a soil conditioner and for brick making.

Staying with Britain, the Public Health Act 1875 charged local authorities with the duty to arrange the removal and disposal of waste, starting an evolution of local authority power. This replaced the previously widespread practice of scavenging. The Act also ruled that householders keep their waste in a "movable receptacle", the beginning of the dustbin, which the local authorities had to empty every week and, by the late 1800s, household waste was collected daily in moveable ash bins.

The waste was sorted by hand, usually by women or girls, into salvageable materials; coarser materials were sieved from fine ash (breeze). A large proportion of the waste was salvaged, revealing the extent of reuse and recycling systems; for instance, materials such as glass and metal were returned to merchants and the breeze and hard core from incinerated residue were used in building materials.

The value of goods reclaimed from dust heaps showed that the level of recycling and reclamation has always depended on economic incentive.

In the 1930s plastics were starting to be made from chemicals produced from petroleum (plastic products had been made from plants since 1862). The production and manufacture of plastics grew slowly over the next 20 years. In the economic boom of the 1950s, production began increasing sharply because of increases in different types and applications for plastics.

While the development of plastics and other forms of packaging had reduced the amount of food wastage, the environmental consequences of increasing amounts of non-biodegradable plastic packaging and toxic inks increased exponentially.

Contemporary consumer society evolved with the increase in production and consumption, as products were increasingly designed to be thrown away and the packaging industry grew. Increased consumption inevitably generated an increase in manufacturing, industry, mining and quarrying, agricultural and food processing wastes.

In Britain a combination of increased new chemical waste, changing waste compositions after clean air legislation, and new health and safety guidelines brought about the first serious waste regulations during the 1970s. This was also linked to concerns over energy use and the wider depletion of resources.

In the 1980s there was increasing public concern over waste disposal, especially hazardous waste. The construction boom in the UK in this period resulted in an estimated one million tonnes of illegally deposited waste lying around London at any one time. Those who produced the waste had no responsibility for it.

In 1990, the British government produced "This Common Inheritance", its first comprehensive White Paper on the Environment. It set out a waste strategy that regarded waste minimisation and recycling as priorities, and set a target of 25 percent for the recycling of household waste by 2000.

Seven years later, in 1997, new legislation was implemented that required businesses to recover and recycle 38 percent of their packaging, increasing to 56 percent by 2001. Additional recycling targets to enforce a minimum percentage of recycling for each of the packaging materials (paper, card, plastics, aluminium, steel and glass) were also introduced.

The obligations would have to be shared between raw material manufacturers, converters, packers and fillers, and sellers.

"Waste Strategy 2000" was then published, setting revised national targets for the recycling or composting of household waste: 25 percent by 2005, 30 percent by 2010 and 33 percent by 2015.

It would be good, in the final draft of the charter, to see such targets developed to give us benchmarks on which to set our sights and provide a measure for progress for, clearly, we have a long way to go when it comes to recycling and we are way behind world-class city status when it comes to this aspect.

Here's a good start - I received this from Mike Bills of The Glass Recycling Company:

"The Glass Recycling Company is a not-for-profit company established by the glass fillers and manufacturers in South Africa, for example, SA Breweries, Consol Glass, Nampak Wiegand Glass, Distell, Nestle, Tiger Brands, etc. Our funding is derived from a levy paid by the fillers.

“The main objective of the company is to increase the glass recovery rate for recycling purposes ie: minimising the use of non-renewable raw materials.

“The direct spin-off of such an objective is job creation. This is achieved through the establishment of new entrepreneurs to collect glass as well as supporting existing suppliers in developing their own collection market.

“In the more affluent areas there is no price tag on glass as the income levels and unemployment dynamics are vastly different. In order to recover this glass we have adopted the implementation of glass banks at strategically located sites accessible mostly by the public. A glass bank is a receptacle made from roto-moulded plastics with the ability to hold 800 kilograms of glass.

“Being made from plastics, the maintenance and durability of the bank is fantastic. Currently the colour adopted is green, although this can be adapted should a customer request a bulk number. The bins are available at no charge.

“We have designated service providers who empty the banks on a frequent basis. Their obligations are to ensure that a bank does not overflow. In addition, they are required to ensure all shards of glass are removed when servicing the bank, with the surrounding left clean. Any damaged bank will be removed and replaced by a functional unit.

“We are currently able to place 550 units with an additional 400 due, therefore potential homes over 12 months for 950 units. This is a very exciting time for the glass recycling industry, considering over the past 20 years there was only funding to place a total of 1 000 banks (currently active). In a matter of 12 months we will equal that and continue to grow.

“The truth of it all - there is no snake under the rock - we just want to minimise glass waste. There are advantages for companies and individuals, but a win-win for all."

Stay green
Best, Neil

For more info on glass recycling contact Mike Bills at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or phone him on 011 803 0767.

Walking and bus tours by the Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust
The costs below are for members and non-members, respectively. Bookings can be made at Computicket on 011 340 8000 or through the For any queries, phone 011 482 3349 in the mornings only.

Saturday, 30 June: Westcliff's West End – this walking tour explores the hilly parts of Westcliff, with views, vistas, anecdotes and glimpses of noteworthy architecture. The tour starts at 2pm, and lasts about three hours. Meet at the Ridge School, 26 Woolston Road, Westcliff. It costs R50 and R70.

Related stories:
READ previous editions of CitiChat

Listen up: it’s time for JoGreen
Global warming is increasingly in the spotlight, and cities can do a lot to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ensure their buildings are environmentally sustainable. We must Go Green.
Read more

The changing city, part two
There is a groundswell of new investment into the inner city. While the profile of property owners is changing - along with property uses - money is being poured into sprucing up Joburg's CBD.
Read more 

The changing city, part one
Far from being a recent problem, the decline of the inner city had its roots way back in the 1950s, and some short-sighted decisions made by the council of the time.
Read more

Turning words into action takes cash
The executive mayor has taken a stand, and in his budget committed a substantial sum to turning the outcomes of the Inner City Regeneration Charter, into reality.
Read more



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Last Updated on 11 June 2007