DReSS: Darling Recycling Swap over Shop

The kids collect and store all sorts of recyclable litter during the week from discarded plastic to empty bottles and bring it to the swop shop on Wednesdays where it is weighed. The total weight of the collected items is then tallied and swop shop points awarded to that value. They can then exchange these points for goods such as food, toys and even school clothes.

The DReSS began on January of 2013 to address the litter problem in Darling as well as do something positive for kids who come from largely poor backgrounds. The amount of litter and recyclable material that has been collected is quite staggering. In the first ten weeks of this project almost 12 tons of boxes, bottles, cans and unrecyclable litter like chip packets have been removed from the streets.

The swop shop has been kept going through the generosity of members of the Darling community. As is so often the case with such initiatives that extra help is always needed and welcome. The shop is always in need of its most popular items such as milk, canned goods and of course clothes.

On the 21st of May the Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve had the privilege of being invited along to one of the planning meetings of the DReSS. In this meeting, the members discussed improving their operational efficiency as they have a limited amount of time to service the children (2pm and 5pm). The members of the swop shop showed a keen interest in improving their focus on getting more background information on the children participating at the swop shop.

To this end, the DReSS asked if the CWCBR could assist in compiling a questionnaire, which would allow the DReSS to gather useful data about the children. This would then help in working out how they can improve the programme, as well as better understand what the children actually need. This may further help the swop shop find creative ways in attracting more children to this initiative.

The work done by this small project has a significant impact on the wider goal of conservation of our natural resources, as well as preserving our natural environment. The DReSS, collects about two tons of recyclable material a week. This is hugely positive not only for the aesthetic value to Darling, but also in real terms.

When for instance you consider that it takes about ninety-five percent less energy to produce aluminium from recycled material than it would from raw materials. The kids at the swop shop collect about 600kg of plastic on a weekly basis. This amounts to about a seventy percent saving in energy costs in producing plastic products.

Recycling two tons of waste every week is extremely beneficial in reducing the amount of waste deposited into landfills, which in and of themselves is harmful to the environment.[i] Quite often, natural vegetation has to be cleared to make way for these landfills and the waste deposited into them has a negative impact on the environment.

The involvement of Darling’s children in this effort serves as a reminder that we all can make a positive contribution towards our communities, and do something to ensure that the goal of reducing human kind’s negative impact on the biosphere is realised.

Although this project is enormously beneficial to the children involved in it, it is important to the CWCBR that kids are taught about the wider importance of their contribution beyond the immediate rewards they get from their participation. For example how a healthy natural environment is important for their health, and how preserving the natural beauty of the West Coast can one day offer opportunities for employment in fast growing industries like environmental tourism or conservation.

The DReSS is a great example of community and invention working to improve the lives of those living in the west coast biosphere.