The city of Rustenburg is drafting a road map towards circular economy as a part of cooperation project Co-creating Sustainable Cities with Lahti (Finland) and Ho (Ghana). The road map is drafted with the help of baseline studies, stakeholder discussions and a series of three co-creation workshops in Rustenburg.
Author: Maarit Virtanen
The main objective in Rustenburg is the diversification of economy and creation of jobs through circular economy. Circular economy solutions would also support environmental protection and waste management aims. At the moment, the economy of region is based on mining. During the first two co-creation workshops, four main areas of interest have been identified: 1. Value creation through material recycling; 2. Composting of biodegradable waste; 3. Development of repair and reuse services; 4. Education and awareness raising.
Value creation through technical material recycling
In Rustenburg, the waste collection system covers most of the city area, except for rapidly spreading informal settlements. There is no official recycling of waste, but waste pickers circle the streets and landfill collecting and selling materials. The aim in Rustenburg is to formalise waste recycling, to introduce waste separation at source to households and businesses, and eventually to process some of materials in the area. There are altogether 13 buy back centres for materials in Rustenburg, but the processing is done in Pretoria, Johannesburg or other locations.
Figure 1. Waste pickers taking materials to a buy back centre
Waste separation at source will enhance the material recovery from waste and ease material processing, as organic waste is separated from other materials. It will also provide better income and working conditions for waste pickers and recyclers. Separation at source can be introduced through pilots at selected businesses and communities. The pilots help to specify, which materials should be sorted at source and which can be sorted at the collection or transfer sites. There are already markets for different types of plastics and papers, cardboard, glass and metals.
To ensure effective collection of recyclable materials, sites for sorting and storing of materials should be established. Currently, transportation is a challenge for recyclers working in townships outside the city centre, and there are problems with littering, when recyclers sort the waste on streets. In the designated sites, recyclers could do the final sorting of materials, after which materials were transported in larger quantities to the existing buy back centres in Rustenburg. Once the process of collection, sorting and sales is functioning, the income from sales can be invested in, for instance, bailers, shredders and transport trucks. Further investment can be sought for a conveyor belt to ease the sorting.
The recycling process can be further developed by establishing municipal buy back centres, if this is seen as an economically viable option instead of selling materials through existing centres. Once the availability of recyclable materials is ensured, processing of some materials can be developed. These can include, for example, manufacturing of pellets from PET bottles, or manual handling of WEEE to separate most valuable components for sale.
Composting of biodegradable waste
The composting of biodegradable waste, including garden waste, kitchen waste and organic waste from businesses will help to divert waste from the landfills and makes the separation of recyclable materials from waste easier and more profitable.
The composting can also be begun with a pilot on, for example, restaurants and selected residential areas. The pilot can be done with open air composting, but it should also be studied, whether, for instance, drum composting could be used to improve the efficiency. After the composting systems is functioning, the ready compost can be sold for agriculture or be utilised by the municipality.
If the collection of biodegradable waste proves successful, and the amounts of organic material are adequate, production of biogas can be a viable option. One pilot scale biogas plant is in operation in Rustenburg, with positive experiences on both gas production and utilisation of compost for gardening. However, as biogas production requires investments, it must be ensured that there is a reliable feedstock for the production.
Development of repair and reuse services
One of key elements in circular economy is to lengthen product lifetime through reuse, remanufacturing and repairing. There is a large number of small-scale repair services in Rustenburg for various products scattered around the town. Industrial estates are developed in Rustenburg for different townships, and these could also act as centralised areas for repair services.
Concentrating services in certain areas could promote the accessibility of services through joint marketing and the entrepreneurs could develop the services together through, for example, join investment on machinery. In addition, proper waste management and recycling would be easier to provide, if the activities were located in certain areas.
Figure 2. Services available at an informal settlement
Education and awareness raising
An important part of circular economy is integrating it into education at different levels to enable broader change in, for example, product design, consumption patterns and business models.
The existing environmental awareness raising programs with schools and other stakeholders can be used and further developed to promote circular economy thinking. In Rustenburg, this can in the long run include also establishing college or university degree programs on circular economy.
The next steps in cooperation are specifying the activities and funding opportunities for circular economy pilots. Work is already well under way in Rustenburg in both formalisation of waste picking and piloting the separation at source. There is also interest for cooperation with Finnish companies, and the aim is to invite some of them to the next co-creation workshop in Rustenburg in March 2018. The Circular Economy Road Map will be integrated into municipal plans to promote the implementation of activities.
The road map and cooperation in Rustenburg is a part of Co-creating Sustainable Cities project funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. Lahti University of Applied Sciences implements the project together with the City of Lahti in 2017-2018. (Lahti University of Applied Sciences 2017.)
Lahti University of Applied Sciences. 2017. Co-creating Sustainable Cities Project. [Cited 4 Dec 2017]. Available at: http://www.lamk.fi/english/projects/co-creating-sustainable-cities
About the author
Maarit Virtanen is the Project Manager for Co-creating Sustainable Cities and Kiertoliike projects at Lahti University of Applied Sciences.
All pictures by the author.
Reference to this publication
Virtanen, M. 2017. Co-creating Rustenburg Circular Economy Road Map in South Africa. LAMK Pro. [Electronic magazine]. [Cited and date of citation]. Available at: