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Unsung heroes in the ‘garbage war’

The dumped litter not only damages the appearance of scenic environments; it provides breeding ground for mosquitoes that spread malaria and more often than not, the garbage finds its way into our drinking water sources, among a myriad of problems it presents.

While Tisunungureiwo Co-operative may not be a familiar name to many Harare residents who freely discard litter, these people are clearly the unsung heroes in the struggle to rid Harare of litter, especially the plastic bottles made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), mostly used for soft drinks.

This type of waste is non-biodegradable, meaning that for a long time it will remain on the environment without decomposing.

The co-operative, situated along Mukuvisi River near the council pipes that serve as a bridge connecting Graniteside and Magaba, comprises a group of hardworking men and women who are not afraid of getting themselves dirty as they go through mountains of all kinds of scrap unimaginable.

They arrange used Cascade drink bottles in one heap, Mahewu containers into another, syrup containers and old broken buckets on yet another, among many other waste types the group purchases from people for resale.

“This dumped waste often finds a way into our drinking water sources posing a danger to our health,” said Edna Tsarwe, the cooperative’s chairperson.
“As Tisunungureiwo Co-operative, we are here to relieve the people of their waste. We are doing our bit to clean up our dirty city  while also helping people earn a living.”

But how do they manage to kill two birds with one stone?

They act as middlemen between mostly unemployed people who want to raise cash through selling waste and companies that recycle plastics. It’s possible that you may have come across people carrying huge bundles of garbage in town foraging the bins and thought they were mad. No. These are the people who end up at Tisunungureiwo Co-operative, where they find a ready market for anything plastic.

“We have so far helped many people, some of whom were homeless, to make a start. Most of the people who come to sell waste are from Epworth, Mbare and surrounding high-density areas. We hope as more people become aware of the job we are doing, more will start collecting litter and come to dump it on us, for a price.”
“We hope the government can recognise the job that we are doing and assist us to go further with our work. What we are praying for now are machines that will allow us to process waste into reusable products right here at these premises,” said Tsarwe.

The co-operative not only specialises in plastics but it also collects scrap metals, all kind of bottles, and is soon looking to start collecting meat bones, although the chairperson admitted to not having found a ready market for these.

Tisungureiwo Co-operative rece-ived a funding of US$5 000 through Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association, donated by the Global Greengrants Fund and intensive business management training from Practical Action. They said with more assistance they can redouble their cleaning efforts.

If Harare could have more ventures like this one operating from 19351 Stevenson Road in the Graniteside industrial area, we could have back the clean City we once knew, thanks to these men and women who have chosen to do a job that most of us would shy away from.

If you are interested in knowing what happens to the plastic, watch this space next week.

For Feedback, email: cmasara@standard.co.zw

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