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Swapping “rubbish” for food in Dunoon

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Recycle Swop Shop offers unemployed residents an option

Photo of woman with baby
Alice Mahase with Justice, her baby, at the Recycle Swop Shop in Dunoon. Photo: Gill Douglas
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Every Tuesday morning between 9am and 11am, a handful of Dunoon residents gather at the Recycle Swop Shop at Inkwenkwezi Secondary School, bringing material for recycling.

In a long steel container, food and household items, toiletries, and donated clothes line the shelves. Residents are ‘paid’ with tokens according to the amount of items delivered for recycling and the tokens are then exchanged for food and clothes.

For some 30 women, this is their only job and their only way of providing for their families.

Alice Mahase starts her day at 5am seeing to her children and household before she sets off to collect plastic, mostly bottles. On Tuesdays she delivers it all to the Swop Shop in blue recycling bags. “I don’t have a job and I don’t want to just sit at home. I have been with the shop for four years, and every week, I can buy some clothes, food and stuff for my baby.”

Louise Vonofakidis, who has run the container shop for five years says this way residents who can’t find jobs can still “do something purposeful for their families”. Groups of friends club tokens together so that they can buy in bulk, she says.

The collected materials are sold to a recycling depot and the money is used to buy the food and household goods for the token system. There is always a shortfall. Corporate sponsorships help but the organisation has to cover the deficit, which is why the project is in need of more local business support.

Every Tuesday morning Dunoon residents can exchange plastics and other recyclable material for tokens which enable them to buy food and household goods. Photo: Gill Douglas

Manager Riaan van der Westhuizen and his wife Maria launched the project seven years ago after meeting with Marilyn van der Velden, who started the first Swop Shop in Hermanus. “The original Recycle Swop Shop started out as a project that uses recycling as a tool to “help children help themselves’ and to provide ‘a hand up rather than a hand out’”, explains Marilyn.

The project was adopted by an organisation in Durban, The Domino Foundation, which provided sponsorship and corporate exposure. Earlier this year, the foundation sponsored a team in the Cape Argus Cycle Tour to raise awareness about the Dunoon project.

The van der Westhuizens also ran a swop shop in West Bank near Kuilsrivier but due to security and safety reasons, it closed.

Today, the Swop Shop has a presence in Dunoon and at a primary school in Philippi. The project’s goal is to empower the community and benefit their environment.

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TOPICS:  Environment Unemployment