Frances Ringwood chats to Andrew Fleming, a senior researcher for the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID) to find out what Cape Town is doing in its aims to achieve ‘zero waste to landfill’.Comparing one South Africa city’s waste management strategy to another is like comparing apples and oranges. Each metropolitan area is unique, with specific economic and social drivers, higher or lower living standards measures and administrations motivated by varying political platforms and agendas. The following interview looks at the Cape Town Central City’s approach to resource management as something systemic and holistic and not as a model that may be translated to other South African cities – although the inspiration to work harder towards a greener city does translate. One thing that helps enormously to assist the Cape Town Central City’s approach is its Central City Improvement District (CCID). A public-private partnership, the CCID was established in 2000 by local property owners who wanted to see Cape Town’s CBD rise from a situation of “crime and grime”, to once again become a safe, clean urban environment that also promotes investment through it’s “Open for Business” message. One of the key components of the vision – which has proved highly successful to date with many visitors noting the Central City’s improving cleanliness – has been a fresh approach to waste management. The idea is to promote a move towards a “circular economy” – one where waste will ultimately be seen as a valuable resource, and virtually nothing going to landfill.
FR: What does the future of the Cape Town Central City and indeed Cape Town as a whole look like with regards to the zero waste concept?AF: There’s opportunity and the City of Cape Town are running some really great programmes to incentivise people to shift towards lower waste, but at the same time a lot of it will start revolving around the behavioural choices of people in the city. An important factor in enabling a city to become more sustainable is to increase densification – in other words, to be a more sustainable city we need to use the land better than we already do. We will obviously have more people living here in time – that’s the reality of all South African urban areas – so we need to find ways of housing them better. This ranges from enhancing informal settlements to providing more affordable accommodation in urban areas such as the Cape Town CBD. That is the way to build a sustainable city.
FR: What priority is zero waste for a city such as Cape Town – surrounded by astounding natural wonders, compared to a landlocked city?AF: There is the environmental aspect to protecting our flora and fauna, which is easy enough to say. We are one of the most diversified areas in the world here at the southern tip of Africa. We have species of plants and animals here that cannot be found anywhere else in the world, so we have to protect these. Cape Town is also a coastal town, which means that we are susceptible to climate change, sea-level rises and resulting flooding which could occur, which could put our agriculture at risk. Also, if we see substantial seasonal shift, farmers may need to rethink their production cycles, which could affect vineyards and crops around the greater Western Cape area.
Climate change can also have a massive impact on how people will grow food for their own sustenance and to supply local markets – which could also have a big impact on obtaining the ideal closed loop production cycle. Climate change is going to have a really serious impact on our ability to look after our sustainability.