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The Franschhoek recycling stand-off

Jocelyn van der Ross is as indestructible as the items she recycles. She single-handedly started the first recycling project in Franschhoek in 2005 and, despite challenges, she refuses to crumble. The proverbial David, she has remained strong against a few Goliaths. We unearth the story behind Green Spot Recycling.

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Green Spot Recycling’s journey began when Jocelyn van der Ross moved to Franschhoek with her chi­­ldren after her divorce in 2004. Job hunting proved fruitless, as she could not find employment that would match the salary she earned while living in the city.

After a few months of doing a needs assessment in the area, Jocelyn realised that nobody was collecting glass in Franschhoek. She approached restaurants, asking if she could collect their glass bottles, which she loaded into her car. She was so determined to succeed that she was willing to scratch in dirt bins to remove the glass.

A glass half full

“When we started recycling, it was new to Franschhoek,” she says. “Some locals were taking glass bottles home from their workplaces to sell to outside recyclers.” Jocelyn changed this by buying glass from the community. She felt inspired: “I knew in my heart I had made the right choice.”

When her divorce settlement came through, she bought a bakkie, which served her well for years. Jocelyn’s recycling project, which was first known as Franschhoek Multi Recycling Agency, grew. In 2007, she moved to bigger premises on the local municipality grounds, hired more staff and grew her list of recyclable waste substantially.

She dedicated all her time to her business. “I had no social life and rarely saw my family in Cape Town.” Despite the long hours Jocelyn and her team worked, it was a battle to survive. “Recycling does not pay high rates, and wages and transport must be paid every week,” she says.

Gloves come off

In 2012, Franschhoek Multi Recycling Agency’s production was interrupted when the local municipality and provincial government began talks with Jocelyn. The same municipality that had let her conduct business on its grounds, and had in fact brought more business to her in the form of truckloads of recyclables from the area, now wanted her gone.

Provincial government served her with a compliance notice, which stated that she needed a R120 000 Waste Management Licence because of her volumes. The municipality sent her waste removal bills of R7 800 per month. Jocelyn says she and her staff were also locked out of the premises.

Jocelyn pleaded her case with some high-ranking officials, including the Cape Town mayor and premier. She explained that the high volumes of recyclable waste at her business was not all her own, but had been dumped there by the municipality, taking her volumes up to where it required a waste licence.

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Finding hope

Out of the struggle came many positives. A local law firm helped her to register Franschhoek Multi Recycling Agency as a company called Green Spot Recycling. She also received support from the local community and provincial government.

Belinda Langenhoven, deputy director of the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, acknowledges the important role initiatives such as Jocelyn’s play in diverting waste from landfills that are rapidly filling up.

“Jocelyn has built up tremendous experience over the years and she diverts large volumes of waste from the Stellenbosch municipal landfill site,”
says Belinda.

Green Spot Recycling is one of 15 enterprises earmarked for provincial government’s two-year support programme for small and micro-waste enterprises in the Western Cape.

At loggerheads

The Stellenbosch Municipality does not, however, share the sentiments of the provincial department of environmental affairs and development planning.

Geraldine Mettler, municipal manager of the Stellenbosch Municipality, says Jocelyn is operating her business from a municipality-owned property without the necessary permission or legal agreements.

“The Municipality has never entered into a contract with Green Spot Recycling.  Ms van der Ross has been ordered to vacate the premises. Her operation poses various health risks and is not in line with accepted recycling practices.

“The Municipality has been dealing with various complaints because of the illegal activity by Green Spot Recycling. The Green Scorpions were also on site and issued her with a pre-compliance notice,” says Geraldine.

Just keep moving

Green Spot Recycling’s journey has not been an easy one, but Jocelyn is determined to persevere. Her attorneys are now in discussions with Stellenbosch Municipality, mainly to legalise the premises from where the company operates.

“I am just a single woman wanting to make a difference to our environment and create jobs. The last six years have been hell with all the negative actions, harassments and threats by the municipality to close the recycling depot. Not once has the Stellenbosch Municipality waste department offered to assist in anything positive. I’m tired of all the harassment from this department,” she says.

The Big Issue contacted Stellenbosch Municipality several times for comment, which was not forthcoming at the time of going to press.

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