LITTER CREATES JOBS
ALL IMAGES SUPPLIED BY Litter4Tokens
Litter4Tokens, a South African non-profit organisation (NPO) that employs people to collect and sort litter for recycling, has announced an impactful partnership with fellow NPO, Brownie Points, resulting in the creation of 895 socially responsible jobs for an 11-month contract.
This collaboration was made possible by The Good Economy project managed by the Social Employment Fund, forming part of the Presidential Employment Stimulus which aims to create jobs and support livelihoods through the post-pandemic recovery period. Brownie Points, the lead implementation partner for The Good Economy, will support Litter4Tokens and nine other partner organisations to meaningfully employ more than 1 100 people.
Clare Swithenbank-Bowman, the founder of Litter4Tokens in South Africa and Trash4tokens in the USA, started the NPO in 2015 to help clean up communities while creating employment opportunities, feeding people and instilling pride. It operates in a number of local communities, including KwaDukuza, eThekweni, Hillcrest, Port Elizabeth, East London, Richards Bay, Mpumalanga and Estcourt.
The concept is quite simple; people collect as many bags of litter as they can to get tokens to redeem at the token shop to feed their families. One bag is worth one token and no money changes hands.
The campaign not only employs and empowers the nation but cleans up the environment, creating a circular economy for retailers whilst also raising awareness of the destructive impact of micro plastics.
To date, Litter4Tokens has prevented more than 996 000 bags (1 097 tons) of litter from reaching the ocean, as well as feeding more than 179 000 people in remote communities across South Africa and Mexico. Litter4Tokens’ sister foundation in the USA, Trash4tokens.org, launched in 2022, extended educational outreach campaigns to schools, foundations, businesses, and individuals across the globe. The NPO has now reached more than 32 000 people across South Africa, Mexico, and the USA.
Litter4Tokens and Swithenbank-Bowman have also earned a number of awards through their global reach. The NPO took the 2023 PETCO Best Recycling Community Award in South Africa, with Swithenbank-Bowman given the 2021 SEED Low Carbon Award. She also presented to the International Maritime Organization and the United Nations in May 2023 to have the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code for nurdles (plastic pellets) changed to hazardous material.
JOINING THE GOOD ECONOMY
Prior to the announcement of The Good Economy collaboration, Litter4Tokens had four recycling sites and was employing 350 collectors. Funding supplied through the Presidential Employment Stimulus has allowed the NPO to open up another 22 sites across South Africa, employ more than 1 350 people, and feed more than 6 750 people a month. The funding has also allowed them to supply personal protective equipment and tools, as well as put out a full training video for the Litter4tokens sites, enabling the community managers to train the waste collectors effectively.
Swithenbank-Bowman explained: “We had four weeks to onboard a further 895 waste collectors and were only able to do this with the help of our amazing project team, Thommo Hart, Riyan Barker, and Sue Beningfield as well as our 12 skilled project managers who collected valuable data from collectors.”
Commenting on the partnership with Brownie Points, she said: “This is so beneficial, and with South Africa having more than 2.2 million unemployed citizens, this partnership couldn’t have come at a better time. This is an excellent opportunity for Litter4Tokens to make a difference in the lives of the unemployed in South Africa while making a meaningful impact on our environment.”
Swithenbank-Bowman said the reality is that government and corporate funding, as well as international partnerships, had the only chances of addressing the waste crisis facing the planet.
“We are the preventative campaign – you can do as many beach or river clean-ups as you want, but if you don’t get to the root of the problem, educating and cleaning up before the litter reaches the environment and waterways, we will simply be chasing our tails forever. We need to change the trajectory of funding to support preventative campaigns like Trash4tokens and Litter4tokens. “We play a significant role in helping manufacturers address their environmental impact by providing them with social impact, carbon emissions, and monthly impact data for all forms of litter and recycling collection throughout the country.”
She said the partnership is an excellent example of the positive impact that can be achieved through social employment: “We hope this partnership will encourage other retailers, manufacturers, and foundations to fund our initiatives to continue growing and making a difference in South Africa and the world.”
Pascale Henke, the founder of Brownie Points, said: “The Good Economy aims to unlock shared value for all involved stakeholders through cross-sector collaboration and working towards the common goal of sustainable and meaningful employment.
“Our end goal is to host a successful proof of concept that is scalable and sustainable in the long run. Together, with our partners, we aim to show that social employment is the best way to employ people at scale while adding real value to our society as a whole.”
For more information about Litter4Tokens, visit www.litter4tokens.org or follow them on Facebook and Instagram @litter4tokens. Contact Clare Swithenbank-Bowman, Founder of Litter4Tokens at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 001 650 421 3893.