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Exploring the benefits of recycling in low income settlements: a design of a socially inclusive recycling collection centre in Bisasar Road informal settlements, Durban.

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Our dependency on landfills is not sustainable, waste management beyond the Landfill must be considered systematically to achieve a sustainable urban environment. The pursuit of a sustainable urban environment encompasses various issues that are systematically intertwined, these have been adequately captured in the U.N. sustainable development goals. The problem is threefold; it is ‘Social, economic, environmental’. The study hypothesizes that the architect or the built environment is central to the complexities of these issues. The study takes on a view that the built environment & the architect cannot be separated from the Social, Economic and Environmental issues, and thus play a pivotal and central role in the convergence of these complex issues that frame the urban setting. The main question of the research is understanding how recycling as part of maintaining a sustainable environment can inform the architectural design and socially benefit low-income households. The research further aims to analyze the role that can be played by the built environment to effect change in waste management and sustainability issues. Poverty levels are higher than they’ve ever been in urban areas. Rapid urbanization, lack of employment and opportunities has resulted in a highly unequal society where the poor are somewhat excluded and live under dire circumstances on the periphery of the city. Kennedy road informal settlement as a case study for the research has remained a challenge for the city and encompasses all these issues. However, its unique proximity to the landfill presents many opportunities for waste pickers. As the landfill is fast reaching its end of life, there has been a reduction in its intake. This has led to an uncontrollable problem of illegal dumping and hazardous working environment for waste pickers. Creating a recycling collection center that also acts as a waste transfer depot addressed the issue of illegal dumping caused by the partial closure of the landfill and create opportunities for the poor local community and linking it to other similar informal settlements around the city. Using secondary sources which comprises of published media such as books, journals, academic research papers, reports and credible online sources, the study sources relevant literature to support the theoretical framework. The study is underpinned firstly by the theory of Social justice, addressing the social aspect and briefly touching on economic and environmental issues as a collective cause of urban decay. Complexity theory places architecture or the built environment at the epicenter of these urban issues. Using one of its primary parameter ‘connectivity’, complexity is used to formulate an architectural response to current urban issues raised in the problem statement and placing the built environment at the epicenter as a catalyst and a systems generator. Convergence through connectivity as the main phrase that seeks to capture a systems approach to a problem, with architecture and recycling as the main generators of the complex system. Primary sources have been used in a form of case studies, interviews and observations to confirm the hypothesis and achieve the objectives. These sources have concluded that architecture is a catalyst in the processing of waste and community education in addressing environmental, economic and social issues. Addressing the inequalities in the links between the formal and informal recycling industry is hypothesized in the study as key in reducing levels of exploitation mostly experienced by informal pickers. Constant engagement between waste pickers in this unique location and the and government officials will lead to a review of policies thus improving the working and living conditions of these informal peri-urban communities reducing tensions and developing a level of trust between these informal pickers/communities and the government.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.