Going to university in the very green state of Vermont, I feel like I’ve been part of the recycling movement for some time. I remember feeling frustrated at the lack of recycling efforts when I went home to upstate New York for holidays where the bins were just one big giant container for everything. Redeeming our empty cans and bottles for 5¢ each was, I suppose, an indirect way of recycling, but the motivation then in the late 90s was more to get our money back rather than protect the environment.
In Chicago where we lived for three years, recycling did occur but at a fairly basic level. They were slowly transitioning the bins to include different compartments, and little by little they started collecting more than just paper and cardboard. During our nine years in the UK we saw quite a few transitions and improvements in the recycling efforts. In the beginning they tended to only collect the basic paper, plastic and tin products, but then they also started providing little compost bins that we actively used and appreciated.
Moving to Lesotho I wondered what kind of recycling would occur here. It’s quite trendy now in the US and UK to find ‘upcycled’ products made from recycled cans, paper or glass, often originating in Africa or Asia. That said, services such as trash and recycling are typically not as prevalent in developing countries due to lack of organisation and funding, so I wasn’t sure quite what to expect.
Here in Maseru the standard trash and recycling collection is quite simple. You have a couple of black bins, and then you pay someone privately to come and collect them every week or take it yourself. Typically there is no separation and it all goes to the same place, presumably to a nearby dumping ground where it will remain for some time. There are a few companies who will take aluminium, plastic or other products, but they are not yet operating on a large scale.
So when we heard about the Kick4Life recycling initiative we were quite happy to have an alternative to the regular trash collection. Kick4Life is a charity based in Lesotho set up to provide support and an outlet for disadvantaged young people around the world. Using sport and other initiatives, they especially focus on health education, HIV prevention, life skills development and support for education and employment.
The Kick4Life ReCYCLE Scheme, the first of its kind in Lesotho, involves a group of young people who go around and collect recycling from businesses and homes using bikes with trailers attached. The money that gets generated from the reasonable customer collection fee and materials bought from them for recycling, goes towards supporting their development and education.
This great video Kick4Life produced with local support shows it all…
The only thing they don’t collect is compost. Since we couldn’t bear to throw away our wonderful bits from all our cooking, and since we now have a large garden with lots of grass cuttings and leaves, we built our own compost solution. After doing some research online we found a really simple design and set out to get the supplies we needed.
Constructed of four large square pieces, the bin fits together beautifully like a puzzle when completed. Rather than having a fancy door or gap to help with turning or collecting the compost, you simply take off the top few layers and place them next to the bin. You then transfer the contents of the first bin into the new bin, helping it to mix and break down, while providing access to the good stuff at the bottom. Now we just need to work out the science of having the right amount of green and brown waste to make it work its magic!
Although there are no widespread recycling efforts yet in this little Mountain Kingdom, there are a few things happening here and there in an attempt to make a difference. As these efforts increase, hopefully the number of bottles and cans and other things scattered on the side of the road and in the fields will reduce, making the country an even more beautiful and green place to be.