Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Walking the local neighbourhood on a Monday morning is one of the many times my middle class suburban life is put into perspective. I’m not walking long distances to work, I’m not searching smelly dustbins with rotting food, and I’m not pulling a hugely heavy trolley (often for many kilometers) loaded with bags of tin, paper, cardboard and glass. The people that do this are the informal recyclers whom I encounter on Mondays before Pikitup does its rounds (when not on strike!). I am humbled by the work ethic of these informal recyclers and ashamed that people have to do this to eke out a living;  and saddened that residents do not separate out old food and recyclables. Liz at Lancaster has recycled for years and has chosen to go the ‘official’ route using a company to collect our recycling. We do not separate at source as the sorters at the company we use – Whole Earth – do the separation.

The Hawk Flight sorting team

The Hawk Flight sorting team at Whole Earth

Whole Earth Recycling was founded in March 2007 at Cluny Farm where, until 2008, sorting was done by 4 employees. When they moved to Strijdom Park in 2011 they started their community-based project. These community-based sorters, currently 24 of them, call themselves Hawk Flight. They generate an income by sorting and selling the material to local buy-back centres.  So with the admin team, the drivers, the truck assistants (the loaders) and of course the sorters, Whole Earth contributes to job creation by employing around 40 people in total.  In 2014 the Hawk Flight team sorted over 1000 tons of recycling so reducing impact on the environment while also generating income for themselves.

There is loads of research about informal waste collectors in Johannesburg: how they contribute to the reduction of re-usable waste and its disposal; how they find employment opportunities (albeit with meager wage earnings); how they provide low-cost materials to various industries so contributing to a cleaner environment. One such piece of research is a paper entitled ‘Informal waste collection in Johannesburg:  A case study’ by Thea Schoeman and Kasay Sentime (+/-2010). This study was based on a sample of 150 waste collectors in 3 areas: Braamfontein CBD, Newtown and Killarney.

Source: Schoeman and Sentime p 9

Source: Schoeman & Sentime p 9

These specific areas were chosen in order to explore and compare the patterns between a central business district (Braamfontein), an impoverished residential area (Newtown) and a middle-class residential suburb (Killarney).  In addition to examining how this group of people is marginalized and even harassed by local authorities, the study provides stats that demonstrate their harsh conditions of work. Over 50% of waste collectors drag their heavy trolleys to the central sorting area (often an informally designated area) and then to the buy-back centres.


Source: Schoeman & Sentime p 9

Source: Schoeman & Sentime p 9

And for this the income can be desperately low.  They found that the incomes of the vast majority of informal waste collectors ranged from R50 to R2 000 per week, depending on the circumstances. One of the varying factors is location.  The accompanying graph shows that of the sample group 40% earned less than R250 a month and only 24% earned between R451 and R1000. The weekly income of the Killarney informal waste collectors was as much as R2000 a week. This is probably because the suburb of Killarney is one of the higher income residential areas in Johannesburg, probably resulting in more valuable and greater volumes of waste being generated there than in Braamfontein and Newtown.

So next time you throw away dirty tissues and mouldy vegetables along with tin, cardboard and glass – give a thought not only to the working lives of those who have to rummage through your garbage to separate out the re-usables,  but also to the importance of reducing our waste.


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Lead me not into temptation ….

Lead me not into temptation …  oh Hell who am I kidding… Follow me –  I know a shortcut!

No more words necessary here – the pics say it all!

04 25 April Patisserie







Andrea Burgener the demi-goddess of Melville's The Leopard, said she has met her match when it comes to brownie making! Some accolade!

Andrea Burgener the demi-goddess of Melville’s The Leopard, said she has met her match when it comes to brownie making! Some accolade!


Voted best baguettes in Joburg by

Voted best baguettes in Joburg by









Sometimes they have packets of  brownie off-cuts at reduced prices.  And there are cheese cakes to die for.  Remember – I warned you I know the short cut!

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Bienvenue from Thomas

Several weeks ago I blogged about the importance of the development of entrepreneurs   Here’s the story of but one.

Thomas with his french speaking guests staying at Liz at Lancaster

Thomas with his french speaking guests staying at Liz at Lancaster

We have many French-speaking guests come to stay at Liz at Lancaster, sent to us by AFS-decouverte, a company specializing in French tours through Southern Africa (thank you Yann).  Many of these visitors get collected from the airport and brought to our guesthouse in Craighall Park by Thomas, a French speaking tour guide who then guides them around Johannesburg and beyond. I’ve worked with several French speaking guides all of whom originally came from French speaking DRC (Congo) – Willy Kalala of is one such.  So I made the assumption that Thomas too was from the Congo. But no – Thomas Mudau is a Venda speaking South African. And so the fascinating story of Thomas’ path to entrepreneurship unfolded.   Schooled in Diepkloof Soweto at Mangwele Primary and then Madibane High School, he got his Matric certificate in 1992. Having no funds to go to University he got various temporary contract work such as packing shelves at Woolworths.

Alliance Francais advertIn 1997 he started afternoon adult classes at Alliance Française in Soweto (the Soweto branch was founded in 1983).  His fellow classmates were very varied – some wanting to learn French to go and study in France while others were guiding at Gold Reef City.  Some of these guides suggested that he too should think of becoming a guide at Gold Reef City. Thanks to one of those serendipitous flukes of life, Gold Reef City were looking for somebody who could work with Venda school children coming to the site, as well as a guide with knowledge of French.  Thomas fitted the bill on both counts and so he was accepted as a trainee. In 1998 he became a fully-fledged Tour guide certSA Tourism guide – for Soweto only.  (The SA Tourism qualification needs to be renewed every 2 years). In 2000 he was sent to Germany for 2 months, funded by the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. On his return he branched out as an independent guide often meeting and greeting tourists at the airport before taking them off to see the sights of Joburg.  At the airport he started to meet tour operators who are always in need of guides and it was here that he hooked up with several tour operators, including Yann Godivier of AFS-decouverte  And so Thomas’ business continued to grow.  He became a qualified SA Tourism guide for 5 provinces, began taking tourists further afield to places like the Kruger Park, bought a house in Thembisa in 2002 and is a shining example of what can be achieved through hard work and perseverance.  I asked him if becoming a guide has been good for him and he said that although initially it was very very tough, it has all now paid off and he is very happy with ‘where he is at’ in his life.  Thomas can be reached on 082 963 4770 or

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