A Day In The Life Of A Refuse Collector

BY Vicky Porter

06 March 2018 – The Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa Eastern Cape Branch hosted an educational waste management tour where the daily route of a municipal refuse collector was followed.  The tour also included a visit to Arlington Landfill, Kragga Kamma Waste Drop Off Site and concluded with a tour of Cannibal Glass's recycling facility.  Attendees met at Moffet Retail Park where welcomed by Director of Waste NMBM, Annalisa Dyakala.

The objective of the tour was to challenge the misconception of "throwing it away" by providing attendees with first-hand experience of a domestic collection route and the disposal of domestic waste in a landfill.  "We are faced with various problems on a daily basis, our team is often injured as a result of a lack of insight and education.  Our trucks are equipped with machinery that compacts waste whilst we are driving and if dangerous liquids are in the domestic waste our staff is at risk of exposure to these unidentified chemicals," said Karel Strydom, Municipal Refuse Collector, "waste collection is hard labour, and we plead with the public to dispose of their waste responsibly."

Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality services approximately 51200 households per day.  Municipal refuse collection teams start work at 06h00 and finish their routes by 14h30.  "As with any logistics, we do sometimes experience setbacks such as a truck breaking down.  In this case, collections may run behind – in this case a non-collection can only be logged if it has not been completed by 14h30," said Melinda Labuscagne, GIS Controller NMBM, "we encourage households to ensure that their waste is on the curb by 06h00, or they run the risk of non-collection as our fleet cannot risk losing time by turning back."

The tour started in Mangold Park, where a refuse collection team of 5 were tailed.  Community member, Louis du Plooy, enquired about the tour and complimented the team, "Karel and his team are just great, they are always on time, always friendly and they always look clean and fresh," he shared.

Once the truck was full the tour followed it to Arlington Landfill site, where it would dispose of the waste. "When running at an optimal compaction rate, these vehicles can load up to 10 tons of waste," said Melinda, "every time they weigh in at Arlington their data is recorded, we are able to view the volumes of waste per route which assists with our waste management planning."

An estimate of 380 trucks dispose of waste at Arlington Landfill Site per day, making it the busiest landfill in NMBM.  Informal workers can be seen recovering recyclable material at the site, but this is not a sustainable solution as the material is often contaminated, rendering it worthless.  Furthermore, workers on landfill sites are at risk of injury and illness.  "Our landfill sites are filling up, and Arlington only has an estimated 40 years left until it is full, we would like to challenge the public to actively start recycling in order for us to combat having to build another landfill," said Clinton Plaatjies, Acting Assistant Director: Planning and Contracts, NMBM.

Kragga Kamma Waste Drop Off Site was the second last stop and included a short brief about recycling. "Recyclable products include paper, plastic, cans, carton, cardboard, and glass," said Nazlie Cader-Begg, Operations Manager, The Waste Trade Company, "but before dropping your recycling, make sure to contact your local recycling company to find out exactly what products they accept as not everything is recyclable.”

NMBM currently has 19 Waste Drop Off Sites, one of which is registered with the DEDEAT.  These drop-off points make provisions for garden refuse and recyclable material and not for domestic or commercial waste.    

The tour concluded with a site visit to Cannibal Glass where owner Leon van der Watt demonstrated the benefits of their new material recovery facility.  “The MRF will increase efficiency; this will enable us to service more community members per day.  We are also building a waiting room where educational videos will be on display for our clients,” said Leon. 

"We would like to thank the IWMSA EC for coordinating this tour, it has been a real eye-opening experience for me and our learners and I am sure they will be sharing the experience with their fellow classmates," said Mrs. Sadeeka, Teacher, Uitenhage High School.

 March 06, 2019
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