Enter the Place Heros

Waste next to a cemetery in Gugulethu, Cape Town

Jodi Allemeier – Jan 12

During the lockdown, I read about a concept of “placelessness”. The idea that working remotely, from the isolation of our homes, detached us from a “sense of place” – the emotive attachment, bonds and relationships we have to our environment.

Perhaps the opposite was true for some of us, forced to spend more time than ever in one community? With rolling crisis of Covid, unrest, loadshedding… some decided to connect in even deeper ways with their environment and roll up their sleeves.

We’ve all seen it – the waste piled up high on the street corner, in the park, outside the clinic. Followed by the “why can’t they just clean up…”

The reasons for these piles of waste is a lot less about morality and more about systems – informal settlements have scant waste collection; and households have one wheelie bin collected per week (if they’re in a “well run” municipality), regardless of how many people live on that erf. Several generations of family, or a few backyard rentals can quickly exceed that capacity. Where does the excess go? Well, it quickly finds its way to dumping areas, and once a few people dump, human behaviour dictates the rest…