Background Research


In starting the Blue Sky Recycling Programme project, the team focused on finding context in previous Cape Town project centres projects and recommendations. The team then expanded the search for relevant sources to project center locales that were akin to South Africa and Cape Town, namely Namibia and Costa Rica.

Understanding the Downfalls of Improper Waste Disposal in Flood Areas

During the year 2007, Cape Town was subjected to over 120 millimeters of rainwater in a matter of five days, affecting roughly 38,000 residents and their homes. The Flood Risk Management project group had three goals for their time in Cape Town: to operate a flood risk index pilot study for improving disaster planning, incorporate structural improvement guidelines and improve communication methods, and to better the flood risk management strategies that are currently in place. Its main focus was to manage and reduce the flood risks while creating a safer living environment for the informal settlements. Past flood managements were analyzed in order to learn about flooding trends and find which areas are more likely to flood over others. Due to improper waste management as one of the main factors, many of the basic flood services provided by the city are rendered useless. Because there are not always as many trash bins as there should be or they are not in ideal spots, the rubbish is strewn all over the streets. The improper disposal of waste creates buildups in drains, creating blockages that are detrimental when floods occur. This improper disposal is purposeful in some aspects because the members of the community are aware that they may be hired by the City to clean the area, for over 80% of the workers must be from the settlement they are cleaning. The Flood Risk team concluded that raising community awareness about proper disposal habits would be a critical aspect to improving flood management, and this will be a goal for us as well. If our group can publicize what to recycle and how, our project will be run much more smoothly and will hopefully be sustained when we leave Cape Town.

Strengthening Spaza Shops: A guide to the benefits of Business Organization

In 2010, the CTPC undertook the project of helping Monwabisi Park area Spaza shops grow into sustainable micro-enterprises. Spaza shops are small businesses akin to bodega and corner stores seen across the urban landscape in the United States. The project team’s goal was to first learn about their target group and how they were run. They analyzed the problems faced by Spaza shop owners and their interactions with other Spaza shops. The Spazatiers, as the group called themselves, then worked with the Triple Trust organization to bring business training programmes to the Spaza shop owners in Monwabisi Park. Their last goal was to work with the owners to form a trade association where shop owners could work together for personal gains. The group was able to map the 90 spaza shops in Monwabisi Park. Through interviews and focus groups the Spazatiers allowed for Spaza Shop Owners to talk about their businesses with one another and talk communally about the hardships they faced. Eleven shop owners signed up for the Shop-Net program, a wholesale benefits program, and the groundwork for a Monwabisi Park Spaza Association was planned.

The group made numerous recommendations to the fledgling association that would allow for steady growth. The first step was to extend the Shop-Net programme to all spaza shop owners, helping them in their product and inventory flow. Next was to implement a referral programme to increase membership in Shop-Net similar to a multi-level marketing type of incentive. The third recommendation was to fund a local liaison who would work with Shop-Net and different spaza shops to inform owners of training opportunities. Many recommendations were also made to increase access to capital for expansion and improvement of shops.  Taking into account some of the organizational recommendations will be key to growing Blue Sky Recycling’s foothold in the picker and waste management community. This is especially true in the incentives aspect of the Shop-Net referral system; if there is a way to incentivize the recyclables collectors and general populace to start being more environmentally conscientious, it would be an important direction to explore for our project.

Recycling and Solid Waste Management in Costa Rica

WPI’s team of Patricia Adamson, Emily Allietta, and Melissa King set out to discover old programmes and implement newer variations and improvements to the recycling programmes within Montes de Oca in San Jose, Costa Rica. Their objectives were to disperse surveys to measure interest in recycling, create a trial recycling programme to determine the amount of recyclables produced in an average week, calculate market value of recycled materials, and to conclude the amount necessary to start up a recycling programme. This recycling team utilized methods of interviewing, identifying different socio-economic levels of households to send the surveys to, and to collect solid waste from the trial programme for data.

The goal they set for this project was to determine the feasibility of a recycling programme by creating inventories of recyclable goods, calculating market value per kilogram of recyclable materials, and send out surveys which would collect data on how community members felt about recycling and why. Management methods were determined to consist of three steps: generation, collection, and disposal. Composting and a Pay-As-You-Throw program were two recycling examples discussed in length and the pros and cons of each were elaborated on. The recommendations of the recycling team were to implement a permanent programme consisting of roadside recycling, bi-monthly collection, weekly collection, a recycling center, or a container, bags, or tags program. There was a discussion of implementing more than one programme at the same time in order to make the most effective blend and create recycling success. The importance of education was also firmly emphasized, with a pamphlet looked upon as the best option to disperse information. This project elaborates on a wide variety of ideas that we may implement in our background research here in Massachusetts and when we are in Cape Town.

Managing Costa Rica’s Waste

In 2010 at WPI’s Costa Rica Project Center, students focused on one of the most pressing issues in the countries’ speedy urbanization: municipal solid waste management. The focus was to evaluate which programmes of government action would be the most effective strategies to decrease the solid waste problems present. These programmes, called market-based incentives, are strategies that have been widely successful and function by economic stimulation (through fees or credits) of citizens and business to create an environmental impact. This solution is well suited for Costa Rica as pickers do not fit into the equation and the government does not have a lot of resources to enforce stronger laws properly. Also, there are many recyclables and organic waste that stay in landfills, with little domestic recycling initiative.

The group determined that pay-as-you-throw, refund-deposit, and eco-labeling were the most effective programmes to enact. Pay-as-you-throw is effective by having people pay every time they go to the landfill. There is also no charge on the recyclables they separated. Refund-Deposit allows for the programme to be enforced by the private sector, making it more effective. Eco-labeling allows the government to fine businesses if they opt not to pass regulation, or pay for their own training in the certification to be labeled. This allows the general public to become more environmentally conscious by sight of the label. This project is relevant to our work in recycling as it shows how pickers can be further marginalized by stricter government decrees. If such a change were made in South Africa, pickers would lose much of the little they earn because of the recycling that is being done by people at their homes. While the ideas do work, it is important to understand the context of the communities in which we work so that a fitting solution can be utilized.

Evaluation of Solid Waste Management

In 2012, one of the projects in Costa Rica was to evaluate the management of solid waste in three municipalities; Alvarado, Jimenez, and Oreamuno, in Cartago, Costa Rica. Within those three, the team’s objectives were to evaluate the effectiveness of the recycling education programmes, determine the current state of recycling, and to conclude the major advantages and disadvantages of each programme in each municipality. The methods utilized by the group were to embark on site assessments of each municipality’s recycling centre, send out surveys to community members, partake in archival research, and to conduct interviews. Once these methods were implemented, the goals set by the WPI team were to provide the three municipalities with the resources they needed to sustain the progress that had been made during the two months that the team was in Costa Rica. One of their recommendations was that the project continues in further years in order to further the improvements that had begun.

Costa Rica appears to be a very recycling-forward country, for in 2007 the government pledged that the country would be carbon neutral by 2021. This means that there would be no net release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which occurs by planting trees to offset emissions. In Costa Rica, this is especially difficult due to the fact that diesel is the most popular fuel and over five million metric tons were generated in 2005. Many recycling initiatives have begun since 2000, such as the Planterra Foundation, which creates good recycling habits in children by creating a class where students are taught to separate their recyclables. REDCICLA was founded in 2005 with the help of Japan, who wanted to aid Costa Rica’s health, environment, and their economy while the programme promotes the concept of reduce, reuse, and recycling. The Recycle Programme for the Legislative Assembly in Costa Rica is a government-directed programme that is managed by the Ministry of Health and it teaches the community about proper recycling and what products can be made with recyclable materials. The Regional Programme for the Reduction of Vulnerability and Environmental Degradation is an example of independent entities and the government working together in select regions of Costa Rica to pass laws. Committees within the programme are given objectives to govern and laws to enforce, such as the Commission for the Management and Ordinance of the Basin of the Reventazon River which is a smaller programme dealing with sedimentation problems within the river, the solid waste management, and education for the community members. These programmes in developing countries similar to that of South Africa give insight into the workings of waste management in these regions for better backgrounds to implement successful programmes for within our group.