At Dreamcatcher we have been lobbying since 2009 for improved waste management in the communities where we work. Many have historically been blighted by poor waste management including burning of waste in the open air, illegal dumping, littering, access to limited recycling services and lack of waste awareness. Our activities spanning over 14 years to flag up -and sustainably address the social and environmental impacts of waste are documented on our website including timeline of work to date and the Made in Melkhoutfontein programme, where enterprises were provided with the skills and resources to make crafts from waste materials.
A key part of our work has been engaging with the wider community. In 2014 we set up the ‘Community Waste Working Group’ in Melkhoutfontein, in Stilbaai region. Whilst the Melkhoutfontein dumpsite (where waste, including organic waste from the wider region was dumped and landfilled) was formally licensed by the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning in 2014. There were ongoing issues with non-compliance with license conditions which had a significant impact on the local community and wider Stilbaai area. This included waste still being openly burned by the municipality, which was prohibited. Dreamcatcher set up the Community Waste Working Group in Melkhoutfontein to lobby for change to spearhead a new pathway to waste management for the greater Stilbaai area. Dreamcatcher sought and secured funding internationally, to pursue, research and develop projects in Melkhoutfontein with the community between 2016 and 2022. With an ethos of inclusivity and developing collaboration with the wider Stilbaai eco-system members, over time this group has evolved into the Stilbaai, Melkhoutfontein and Jongsfontein (SMJ) Community Waste Working Group which aims to promote waste reduction, reuse, recycling and composting of food and garden waste waste the area, whilst increasing awareness of the health, environmental and economic impact of waste in local communities.
To further the aims of the SMJ Community Waste Working Group to scale up and inform this work in September 2022, Dreamcatcher with long-time collaborator Dr Ryan Woodard (then based at the University of Brighton, UK) were successful in receiving funding to conduct research in the community to identify the waste management challenges and opportunities within the greater SMJ area. A comprehensive review of relevant policy and waste documentation for Hessequa and the wider area was conducted. Two Learning Labs were facilitated with key stakeholders to discuss current initiatives, waste challenges in the community and potential solutions, and 298 questionnaires were conducted with residents and businesses across the SMJ area. This presents the most comprehensive engagement and consultation to date on waste in the wider Stilbaai area. In November we were proud to finalise an Action Plan consisting of 19 tangible actions to improve the waste system. Over the next year, with an ethos of ‘turning words into actions’ to deliver tangible outcomes-based solutions to reduce waste, we are collaborating as an integral part of the SMJ Community Waste Working Group to deliver these actions.