Barrington resident Ritchie Morris opened a very necessary can of worms this week when he tried to find out what was happening with waste disposal in the Greater Knysna area.
This was after discovering a huge mess at the Sedgefield site previously used for the storage of recycling. This area is on the left-hand side of the main road coming into Sedgefield, adjacent to the large billboard saying ‘Welcome’ to visitors.
In an email originally sent to his farm group but quickly gaining traction in wider circles, Morris said, “There seem to be big problems with disposal of municipal waste from most of the S-Cape towns at present.”
He went on to explain the health nightmare he had found when dropping off his household waste at the Sedgefield collection depot on the morning of Monday, 21 November.
“The place is chock-full and piled high with waste – stinks like crazy, rats and flies feasting to their delight,” he said.
But as he explained to us later on the phone, he is not a man who simply wishes to complain, but rather one who wants to find out what is wrong and then try to assist in finding a solution.
Having attempted to raise local authorities with no joy, he decided to contact the Western Cape Provincial Government, eventually leaving a message for Lance McBain-Charles, the Deputy Director in charge of waste
When the director returned his call, he told Morris that there had been a fire at the PetroSA Gourikwa landfill last week, which meant that it had to close and would not be accepting any municipal waste.
The result of this closure would be waste piling up at the various municipalities in the Southern Cape that use this site. Furthermore, the site’s agreement and license to accept the municipalities’ waste ends at the end of 2022.
When we contacted the Garden Route District Municipality, they confirmed that the information in Morris’s email was indeed correct. They also sent comment from Waste Manager Johan Gie, as follows:
“Local municipalities could not dump their waste at PetroSA because of the fire. PetroSA did get a new compactor today and is hard at work to prep the area for local municipalities to dispose of their waste from tomorrow (Wednesday) onwards. PetroSA will also be open on Saturday to accommodate the backlog of waste piled up at local municipalities.”
Meanwhile, our enquiry to Knysna Municipality garnered the following response from Randall Bower, their Manager of Waste Management.
“The fire at PetroSA impacted all the municipalities along the Garden Route. Knysna Municipality has not been spared, and, as a result, the Municipality had to store excess waste at the waste transfer station in Knysna and the recycling centre in Sedgefield. Whilst we were permitted to offload earlier today, the problem has not yet been averted. The delays at PetroSA again highlight the importance of waste minimisation. We can all play our part by reducing the waste we generate at home and the office.”
But the Barrington man’s biggest beef is the various authorities’ ‘radio silence’ about a matter that clearly could have a huge impact on local communities.
“The info dissemination is non-existent,” he said. “One would think that at least some waste skips could be placed at the municipal storage places and covered with netting or builder’s plastic. Or, at minimum, a newsflash email could be sent to all Greater Knysna area residents informing them of the status quo and how they could assist.”
Sedgefield Ratepayers and Residents Association Chair LilIth Seals also weighed in.
“The overfull refuse dump on the North side of the N2 – the entrance to Sedgefield – is in a terrible state,” she stated, “And it is obviously not coping with the waste generated by the town. Once again, we will contact the Director of Technical Services, asking for an explanation and, more importantly, how we, the residents of Sedgefield, can assist in managing the waste. It has been suggested that residents keep their rubbish until the matter is sorted, but this is a problem to be managed by the Knysna Municipality. It has been an ongoing problem for many years, and often it seems as if it is only sorted out before the visitors arrive in December. We need a permanent long-term solution. We need the Municipality to take a more active interest in the basic needs of Sedgefield.”