Glass recycling in exchange for essential items

Glass recycling is one of the main ways to obtain essential home and clothing items for some community members of the Zandspruit Informal Settlement, west of Johannesburg.

This is done through the Enana Recycle Swop Shop, which was established in 2013. It is part of Emthonjeni, an organisation dedicated to community upliftment of those in need.

“Community members are rewarded for the ‘trash’ they collect. We encourage adults and children alike to collect glass, which is then weighed. The weight is transferred into points, enabling them to shop for items such as clothing, blankets, kitchen utensils, building materials, and many more,” says Estelle Mengel, Partnership Developer at Emthonjeni.

Mengel explains that the Enana Recycle Swop Shop was set up in an attempt to curb the negative attitude towards recycling that so much of the South African population has.

She says that the Emthonjeni Community Centre opened its doors in Zandspruit in 2002, after recognising the needs in that community. The glass recycling project enables some of these needs to be met.

How does the project work?

The Enana Recycle Swop Shop is a ‘give and gain’ initiative, whereby the community of Zandspruit has the opportunity to collect recyclable items such as glass and tin, in exchange for much-needed items in the shop.

These items are donations from various communities and organisations, and include appliances (heaters, kettles and toasters, for example), clothing, shoes, kitchenware (such as cookware, crockery and glassware), do-it-yourself items for the home, including cement, bricks and steel, home décor (such as mirrors, curtains, rugs and linen), toys, sports equipment, stationery and toiletries.

In May 2021, the City Lodge Hotel Group’s (CLHG) Sandton and East Rand hotels handed over used but still functional linen, duvets, pillows, towelling, crockery and kitchen items plus new bottles of body lotion, to the value of nearly R228,000.00, to the Emthonjeni Community Centre in Zandspruit.

Previously, the CLHG donated used but still smart uniforms, which proved ideal for members of the community going for job interviews and needing an outfit for the occasion.

“At CLHG, we always put people first, including staff, guests and our various charitable partnerships. We appreciate all that Emthonjeni Community Centre does for the communities of Zandspruit, and are pleased to be able to lend a hand where we can,” notes Lindiwe Sangweni-Siddo, chief operating officer of the City Lodge Hotel Group.

Mengel says that the project coordinator prices all the items at the shop. If a bag of glass or tins weigh 5kg, this can be exchanged for any item priced R5.

“The glass is collected by a recycle company and funds from this are invested back into the Recycle Swop Shop, thus making it self-sustainable,” says Mengel.

Moreover, the front of the Recycle Swop Shop has a covered and safe place to socialise. Here, mothers and children can enjoy being together while they hand in goods and select their items.

Importance of recycling

According to Mengel, glass recycling, as well as recycling used tins and other product packaging, encourages a sense of responsibility to look after the environment.

“It helps to keep the community clean while instilling a sense of pride in the neighbourhood and makes it a safer place for children to play.”

Furthermore, she says that the recycling project empowers individuals through education. People can see the benefits of their efforts and the small changes these make to the world around them.

“The glass recycling project enables people to provide for themselves and their families, as they can choose to use the exchanged items or sell them for a profit should they need to. The project also ignites a belief that they are valuable to the community and their efforts contribute to a greater cause,” points out Mengel.

For children, she says the process plays a development role in their young lives. Through sorting, counting, calculating, weighing, saving and receiving points, the children are introduced to an educational process and valuable life skills in a practical manner.

Glass recycling in numbers

The glass recycling rate in South Africa is now 44%, according to The Glass Recycling Company (TGRC), South Africa’s official organisation for promoting glass recycling.

Since the inception of TGRC 13 years ago, 3.9 million tons of non-returnable glass has been recycled. In addition, in excess of 2 million tons of returnable bottles have been diverted from landfills on an annual basis, says Shabeer Jhetam, TGRC CEO.

The increased rate of glass recycling was revealed during TGRC’s 7th Annual Dialogue, held virtually in June 2020. Some notable achievements include:

  • 4,017 glass banks available across South Africa
  • 80% glass packaging diverted from landfills through reusing and recycling
  • 2.3 million glass bottles recycled during the Annual Schools Competition
  • 3,303 glass entrepreneurs trained
  • 50,000 income opportunities created

According to the National Waste Management Strategy 2020, compared to many developed countries, South Africa has relatively high rates of recycling for paper, plastics, glass, metals and tyres.

Suburban-based, The Peech Boutique Hotel in Melrose North Johannesburg, was named as one of Gauteng’s Top 10 Glass Recyclers in Hospitality by The Glass Recycling Company in 2018.

The awards were allocated based on weight of collected glass during the year. Once collected, the glass bottles are melted to make new glass products.

Owners, James and Vicky Peech, say they are committed to being responsible members of their community and industry.

“With a focus on sustainable tourism, the recycling of all hotel refuse (glass, wet waste and paper) is vital to ensure a positive impact within the travel and tourism industry,” they say.

Vicky says that within the hotel, they use an in-house water filtration system for bottled still and sparkling filtered water. Their bottled spring water supplier (Verve) collects the empty bottles and returns them to the factory for sterilisation and recycling/reuse of the bottles.

“Glass is a readily available resource in South Africa, and whatever cannot be recycled can almost certainly be reused,” she adds.

To make a donation to Enana Swop Shop and Emthonjeni, contactEstelle Mengel on (011) 268 4779 or email:

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Edited by Gudrun Kaiser

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Safrea or its members.


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