Could this be a ‘first in Africa’ for Knysna?
BioWise, a local NGO that promotes the practice of biomimicry, launched the “Waste Nothing Knysna” campaign in Greater Knysna this month.
Executive director Sue Swain says the project falls under the “business unusual” approach introduced by BioWise after the fires in June last year.
“We need to completely rethink how we do things rather than just continuing as before. Being bio-wise, or earth-savvy, is really not a choice anymore. We can no longer treat our natural resources as unlimited supplies to be overexploited and used unwisely. Cape Town’s current water situation is a perfect example of how an attitude of perceived unlimited resources can come back to bite you,” says Swain.
Lessons from nature
“In natural ecosystems like a forest, resources are used sparingly and nothing is wasted. Everything is locally upcycled and recycled to replenish what was used, and collaboration and fostering partnerships is the name of the game,” she says. “Every organism has a role to play in this, actively contributing to maintaining a healthy, resilient system able to respond and adapt to changing conditions. In such a system, nothing is wasted, there is no pollution and no unemployment. That is our vision for Knysna,” she adds.
Waste Nothing Knysna will look at how resources are dealt with across all sectors, i.e. materials, water, space, energy and traditional waste. Swain is tackling this together with a team comprising Jennifer Tooley, Nicci Rousseau-Schmidt and Nina Ligeti.
“This is a long-term programme. Phase one, running from March to September 2018, will primarily focus on creating awareness, facilitating input from the Greater Knysna community, identifying resources and expertise and finding seeding ideas to be actioned in phase two,” says Swain.
One of the initiatives the programme aims to address is to reduce the 2 200 tons of monthly municipal waste that is carted away to be processed in Mossel Bay by half by the year 2021.
Convert trash to cash
Swain says we have to rethink our waste habits and start seeing waste as a resource. “We have to say no to single-use plastic and unnecessary packaging, support upcycling projects like the bottle bricks and collaborate with residents on other upcycling opportunities. Waste as a resource opens up a multitude of opportunities for SMMEs to convert trash to cash.”
With regards to water, Swain says they are investigating ways to “bring the forest back into Knysna”, to “plant the rain” and harvest our stormwater for future use, both at private homes and in municipal areas.
“Initial meetings have been set up with the goal of collaborative input from all sectors of the community. This must be a collective effort from all those in the Greater Knysna area,” she said.
Partnering with Edge of Africa, SANParks and Knysna Municipality, a schools competition has been launched as part of the initiative.
Also a long-term vision, Swain says schools have been invited to begin a journey towards becoming bio-wise, starting with learning how to work more wisely with water and waste with the slogan “It’s not waste until it’s wasted” summing up the approach.
“We’ve had a phenomenal response and 15 schools in the area signed up for the competition, which closes in September. The prize money is R30 000 each for the winning high and primary school. The entry fee was ‘bottle bricks’ – empty 2-litre plastic bottles filled and tightly packed with other plastic and foil packaging like sweet wrappers and chips packets. The schools had to make an equivalent of 10% of the total learner count to qualify, and must use the bottle bricks to make something as part of the competition,” Swain explains.
Vision of ‘first in Africa’
She also thanks the National Lottery Commission for their funding support. “Without them we would not have been able to launch the project. Our ultimate vision is to be the first bio-wise waste-nothing town in Africa, and starting with small steps, with the help of local communities and buy-in from our local government, I believe we can make the big leaps necessary to achieve that. We’re in, are you?”
For more information about Waste Nothing Knysna, or if you would like to get involved in some way, email Swain on sue@ biowise.org.za, or join their Facebook page Waste Nothing Knysna for regular updates and more news. –
BioWise executive director Sue Swain says nature is a phenomenal designer and problem solver. “In our water-scarce environment we could learn a lot from a forest – there is 55% infiltration, 40% evapotranspiration and only 5% runoff. How much of our...