The Warwick Zero-Waste (WZW) Project is a collaborative partnership between DUT’s Urban Futures Centre (UFC) and local non-profit organisations (NPOs), groundwork and Asiye eTafuleni. This year is the third and final year for the project, which forms part of an International Lifecycle Cluster of zero-waste projects within the continent and around the world.

As a part of the project, the team collaborates with the municipality to develop a circular model which redirects organic waste from Durban’s Early Morning Market to be used as a source for nutrient-rich compost at the Durban Botanical Gardens. There is a strong emphasis on partnering on building capacity and improving the decision-making power of informal traders who work within the market. The project is also used as a platform to educate the public and government officials on the mitigation of climate change, achieving zero waste and integrating waste pickers. Furthermore, the project creates spaces for engagement on climate change and achieving zero-waste through the Africa Zero-Waste Hub; and provides research opportunities for students and post-doctoral researchers.

The WZW serves as evidence of an effective zero-waste model and is critical in developing effective climate change solutions and championing the zero-waste framework as a form of waste management. The team is also responsible for generating research outputs related to the work done in the project; actively coordinating the Africa Zero-Waste Hub; monitoring and evaluation; and implementing of a pilot project around composting.

The DUT UFC component of the WZW team is comprised of Dr Kira Erwin (Principal Investigator and Senior Researcher), Dr Tamlynn Fleetwood (Co-Investigator and Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Officer), Dr Tanya Dayaram (Post-Doctoral Researcher and Project Coordinator), Dr Princess Sibande (Post-Doctoral Researcher and Artist), Doung Jaghaneer (PhD Student and Artist) and Ntobeko Mlotshwa (PhD Student).

The project was born out of a desire to develop and implement climate change mitigation strategies in partnership with some of the most marginalised informal traders in Durban. Dr Fleetwood elaborates, “A vision developed from the spaces of urban marginalisation in which many people find themselves today. Using this zero-waste project to build connectivity and capacity between and within informal worker movements, civil society, university academics, and city officials create a groundswell push towards seeing informality as a space of technical innovation for sustainable futures.”

The model being used by the WZW is replicable and serves as an excellent example of a closed-loop economy that offers mutual benefits for all. The project demonstrates that zero-waste is not only achievable but a viable option to mitigate climate change. The results of this project benefit all members of society, as it demonstrates that there is hope for a sustainable future.

The project has experienced some threats through COVID-19, the 2021 July Unrest, the April 2022 Floods, and political instability within the municipality, however, the project remains a success and has experienced victories that far overshadow the challenges that they have faced. The team note some of their victories as the implementation and upscaling of the Organics to Compost pilot; the opportunity for waste packers to represent their issues themselves via the African Zero-Waste Hub; the publication of a journal article in 2022; working with local artists to produce creative pieces to educate the public and traders on climate change and zero-waste; and a recent Lifecycle Cluster Family gathering in Accra, Ghana where the WZW team had the opportunity to network with colleagues who host similar projects across the world.

“We are excited to report that in Year 2 the WZW Project partnered with the Durban Botanic Gardens, the Durban University of Technology’s (DUT) Horticulture Department, and the eThekwini Business Support, Tourism and Markets Unit to begin slowly and incrementally moving the organic waste from the EMM once a week to compost in the Botanic Gardens permaculture garden. Over the course of 5 months (July – Nov 2022), the team diverted 4096kgs (4,096 tonnes) of organic waste from landfill!” says Fleetwood.

The WZW team was the recipient of the Team of the Year award at the 2022 Community Engagement Excellence Awards, they stated that they were both honoured and proud to be recognised by the university for their efforts. Expanding on what sets the WZW team apart and ensures their success, Dr Fleetwood shares, “Having the right skills and work ethic in our team. We are all very committed activists that care about people and the planet.”

The future of the project looks promising as the team plans to scale up the project, apply for funding that would ensure the continuation of the project, and fortify their efforts to embed the composting pilot within the city at large. “We are looking forward to scaling up the organic pilot, working with waste pickers on Waste Picker Integration in the City, working with selected Zero-Waste Champions in the market, as well as building more capacity and connections through the Africa Zero-Waste Hub. We are also excited to start research with street cooks on possibilities for alternative biodegradable packaging for their delicious and popular food. In addition, we hope to submit a funding proposal to the current funders to continue the project for a further 3 years from 2024.”

If you would like to know more about the Warwick Zero-Waste Project:

  • Email: Warwickzw@dut.ac.za  or connect with the team
  • Twitter: @UFC_DUT
  • Facebook: @ufc_dut
  • Instagram: @ufc_dut

Useful links:

  • A short video on the composting pilot can be viewed here!  
  • A public website for the Africa Zero-Waste Hub that shares the resources produced by the WZW Project so far can be viewed here.

Picture: Prof Monique Marks presenting the Community Engagement Team of the Year Award to Dr Kira Erwin and Dr Tamlynn Fleetwood (of the Warwick Zero-Waste Project) at the 2022 Community Engagement Excellence Awards

Tracy Khuzwayo

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