Waste management is big business in South Africa. It encompasses everything from people collecting sidewalk rubbish in make-shift trolleys and exchanging it for cash that will see them through a few days, to large-scale waste-removal businesses that dispose of trash from office buildings. “They’re all operating in silos, and no one is collaborating,” says Gift Lubele, Co-founder of Kudoti, a digital platform launched last year that aims to create a more sustainable circular economy in our local waste-management industry.
“No one seems to know how much of our waste is currently being recycled, and there’s little to no data within recycling,” says Lubele of the problem he and his team hope to resolve through the use of technology. Their solution is to build software and create different digital solutions for various waste-management projects, to simplify processes and capture data that will increase the efficiency of the system and reduce costs at every level.
One such project being rolled out in Khayelitsha, in partnership with Distell, the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and the City of Cape Town, focuses on what Lubele calls “environmental agents”. This project helps communities of informal waste handlers organise themselves, skill up, scale up and grow, and is being implemented through training programmes in waste management, business and finance. The project also involves distributing protective apparel and equipment, and connecting various waste processors.
“We’re digitising the process so that the ladies can help themselves,” says Lubele, explaining that around 95% of Khayelitsha’s informal waste pickers are women who have, up until now, been recording their business transactions on paper. The new system records waste-handler and buy-back centre transactions and tracks performance, so that efforts may be better rewarded.
Another Kudoti project being implemented in Johannesburg is that of waste sensors installed in the bins of large companies. These indicate when bins are full so that recycling companies collecting the waste only do so when it is warranted, thus saving on fuel costs and making better use of vehicles and drivers. “The sensors show the fill level and where the bins are so that there’s smart-route optimisation,” Lubele explains.
Kudoti will eventually have waste companies transacting directly with each other, filling in gaps where waste isn’t optimally collected, sorted and recycled. “We want to get to the point where, no matter your challenge, we can help if you are in recycling.”
100 Beautiful Things is presented by the V&A Waterfront in celebration of South Africa’s creativity, compassion, ingenuity and resilience. Every week we will be showcasing five amazingly beautiful creative things that make us proud. It is curated in partnership with Platform Creative.