Rather than cleaning up after the fact, the four-year programme – named after the Fish Eagle that returns to cleaned catchment areas – will fund upgrades of sorting infrastructure, education for the community, and the establishment of an innovation hub for entrepreneurs to develop new solutions.
By the end of 2023, the Alliance hopes to see the completion of five MRF upgrades with its funding, increasing the city's capacity to sort – and eventually recycle – another 12,000 tonnes of used plastic per year. Another five will be enhanced successively throughout the coming year. The upgraded MRFs will be fed by waste collected from landfills, dumpsites, households, and schools, done through the efforts of municipal waste workers or bought from informal pickers.
Over a thousand community volunteers also take part in regular clean-up campaigns along rivers and beaches, recovering tonnes of waste and restoring environments. The effort is supported by Inkwazi Isu's waste ambassadors, who help raise awareness around separating waste and preventing plastic waste leakage.
This builds on the ambassadors' work in their communities. Educational programmes about how to identify and sort plastic waste have been conducted in 50 schools, encouraging students to collect their plastic waste from home. Today, these collection programmes contribute some 100 tonnes of plastic waste for recycling every month. Despite significant collection by the informal sector, only 14% of plastic is effectively recycled, primarily due to ageing or non-existent infrastructure. As such, having a coordinated and cohesive approach is key.
By December 2025, Inkwazi Isu hopes to collect and sort 20,000 tonnes of plastic waste, and to have a positive social impact on its pickers and sorters. It looks to be on track to achieve these goals. More than 4,000 tonnes of plastic waste were collected and sorted between July and December 2022, higher than the 2,500 tonnes initially projected. Of this, 3,500 tonnes were valorised. In the year since its launch, the project has also helped 33,000 people and created 150 jobs. The goal is for each MRF to be self-sustaining, with sorted plastics and other recyclables sold to local recyclers.
If the Inkwazi Isu project can find success in Durban – the third most populous city in South Africa – there is an opportunity to roll it out in other coastal areas to stop plastic waste from entering the environment, divert it from landfills, stimulate the development of downstream processing activities, grow jobs, and improve the environment across the country.