Local Heroes 2022: Helping the city sparkle through recycling
The vision of a cleaner and greener metro is slowly unfolding under the leadership of two partners who are hell-bent on creating jobs and cleaning the streets, one piece of trash at a time.
Scott Worley and Joshua Acheampong from Land of the Living share a dream, which they speak about every morning, to create a fully machine-operated community entrepreneurship company, using recycling to generate income for impoverished communities.
“I’m just the rubbish guy!” Acheampong said, laughing.
The NPO aims to create sustainable development and employment opportunities for young people through its training programme, HOPE network of community leaders and Unantoni Endlini Recycling plant, the main operation.
“We literally started with little more than the shoes on our feet,” Worley said.
Unantoni Endlini, “what do you have in the house” in isiXhosa, was founded in 2018 as the entrepreneurial wing to sustain operations and employ young people.
Worley said: “We began this in a tiny garage in Arcadia with a broken down bakkie, that’s all we had. But we had a vision to train and empower youth to become entrepreneurs.
We quickly realised once we started that we didn’t have a sustainable funding model and we needed to create a social enterprise to generate the revenue to help drive those community-based empowerment programmes — that got us into recycling.
“We quickly realised once we started that we didn’t have a sustainable funding model and we needed to create a social enterprise to generate the revenue to help drive those community-based empowerment programmes — that got us into recycling.”
Programme manager Acheampong said they collected more than 25 tonnes of recycling every three months from the NPO’s city cleanup initiative, or individual collectors in various communities.
Acheampong said: “It’s challenging trying to empower people. We have to change their mindset and build them up while working on the job.
“But it’s fun! My love for young people, to build trust and give them the opportunities to learn and make mistakes. I’m a father, a big brother and a teacher.”
Land of the Living employs eight permanent staff members and more than 50 casual workers for their city cleanup programme and recycling plant.
“If we hadn’t started recycling we would’ve closed down. We were at the tipping point of saying hey, we are done with this, so let’s just end it.”
Acheampong said the project had seen an incredible turnaround with the ability to employ more workers.
“I wake up every morning excited coming here, seeing the young people. Their enthusiasm and happiness to come to work gives me that energy to wake up every morning and just come and meet them — they are the reason we are doing this,” he said.
Worley explained the main focus of the initiative, which involved a three-tier cleanup programme.
“We clean up and maintain problematic areas of the environment all across the city. We recycle the waste we clean up and we train and empower previously employed youth, first to be employed and eventually entrepreneurs who own their own small businesses,” Worley said.
“We sell cardboard, paper, glass and plastics. There are not a lot of places that buy recycling in East London, so we transport it out of the city.”
A once-a-week recycling collection service is also offered to residents.
“We have about 300 residents who pay R120 a month for us to collect their recycling.
“It’s a way to make it easier for people and is a big boost for us.”
Communications manager Carlos Allan said: “It all comes down to people, to help restore dignity. We have learnt that even with very little we can create so much.
We started cleaning the city because we were not happy with the ‘Slummies’ status quo.
“We started cleaning the city because we were not happy with the ‘Slummies’ status quo.”
The citywide clean-ups started in 2020 and grew into several major operations.
Worley said: “We do weeding, sweep gutters, pick up litter and cut the overgrowth of areas like the Gonubie main N2 road, Beaconhurst Drive and Upper Western Avenue.
“We have about 50 businesses that sponsor the project.”
Recycling plant supervisor Ncebakazi Mtiwake, from Gonubie, said she had been taught by Land of Living how to sort materials and was very happy to be employed.
“I come from a camp in Gonubie,” she said.
“I was unemployed when they began teaching us.
“We started collecting glass bottles from the Gonubie township, and Josh gave us a scale and a cash box and people would drop off their recycling and we would pay them.
“Scott then showed us there are more materials than just glass.
“This job changed my life. I now have my own money for myself and my daughter.”
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