Enactus UP has partnered with the National Cleaner Production Centre of South Africa (NCPC) to form Project Phoenix, a community project that facilitates brick makers use of fly ash to produce costeffective bricks.
The benefits of the project in Mamelodi are manifold, the first being the reduction of fly ash dumped in landfills. Fly ash, also known as coal ash, is a toxic byproduct from burning coal. Studies show that living near areas where fly ash is dumped increases risks of developing multiple health problems. It also has the potential to pollute water and damage wildlife, as it is swept up by wind or rain from dumping areas such as landfills.
Enactus UP’s project helps divert fly ash by using it to make bricks through their partnership with the NCPC. The NCPC link the Project Phoenix beneficiaries, the informal brick makers, to distributers of fly ash, one of which is Isowall. A distributer agreed to provide these beneficiaries in the Mamelodi areas with fly ash for free. Enactus UP’s role is to identify beneficiaries, introduce them to fly ash as a cost-effective method of brick making, and “[impart] skills that will enable sustainable progress,” according to Enactus UP.
When fly ash is used to make bricks, not only does it divert tons of harmful waste away from landfills, but the bricks are also cheaper and of an equal quality to normal bricks. The average price of one brick is R7,00, but using fly ash, the bricks cost R3,50 each. A case study from the project shows that one beneficiary, an informal brick maker, produced 30 000 bricks in a four month period using the ash, saving over R100 000. Not only was the beneficiary able to open a new plant as a result and add three employees, but 408 tons of coal ash were diverted from landfills. 167 000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions have also been reduced in the process, as the energy required to produce products using raw materials is much higher than recycling.
Enactus UP aim to impart the skill of brick making using fly ash, along with financial literacy training, and brick testing at testing facilities. Another goal of the project is to help formalise informal brick makers in order for them to compete with bigger companies, like Vibro. As of 2019, the project report confirms that six families rely on the income earned by the project’s beneficiaries every month, who were previously at serious risk of unemployment. This project has helped equip previously unemployed young men with skills and employment, as well as one woman and rural men who own brick making businesses.
Project Phoenix falls under four of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: Decent Work and Economic Growth, Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure, Sustainable Cities and Communities, and Partnerships for the goals. “Addressing these goals means we are also playing a vital role in the progress of the country,” says Enactus UP. According to the South African SDG Hub, “the SDGs are a universal call to form partnerships to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.”
South Africa adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals and SDGs in 2015, which “integrates in a balanced manner the three dimensions of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental,” according to the European Commission, a branch of the European Union. Environmental sustainability is a critical issue listed in the SDGs, and Enactus UP is not the only student initiative at UP tackling it.
“integrates in a balanced manner the three dimensions of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental,”
Greenline is a UP society that aims to “raise awareness, educate and most importantly engage with students and communities on environmental issues and potential solutions,” says Connor Smith, chairperson of the society. This is done through events with guest speakers that engage with the UP community on environmental issues as well as solutions, and activities such as the upcoming Arbour Week in September. This week comprises of daily events concentrated on environmental issues, a movie night, and a tree planting to honour Arbour Month. Greenline also works with UP’s Department of Facilities Management in implementing projects aimed at environmental sustainability, one of which includes waste recycling. Waste thrown away by students into the UP dustbins on campus is sorted, and any recyclable waste is transported to a recycling plant. This year alone, UP has recycled 89 tons of waste.
Smith advises students who wish to get involved in eco-friendly related activities to ask their residence house committee’s Community Engagement Officer about their green initiatives, and for students who are not in a residence, to approach communities outside UP include organisations like Greenpop, 350Africa and Greenpeace Africa. Greenline plans to upload information regarding Arbour Week on the society’s social media, and Smith suggests following “The Greenline” and “thegreenlineup” on Facebook and Instagram respectively in order to find the information. “Any member of the UP community is welcome at any Greenline event,” he added, explaining that students do not need to be members to attend their events.
“Any member of the UP community is welcome at any Greenline event,”
SRC’s Green Game Plan: a proposed project In line with UP’s involvement with environmental sustainability projects, David Kabwa, President of the SRC, said that the SRC’s ‘The Green Game Plan’ is a large part of their role in environmental sustainability. Some of the many objectives of the proposed project include planting Spekboom, which naturally remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, creating compost areas to sustainably dispose of vegetable waste and maintain the Spekboom areas, implementing environmentally friendly light bulbs in study centres and solar power charging stations, as well as education programmes for students and symposiums at the Future Africa campus. The project is awaiting approval, but promises to bring a significant and positive improvement to UP’s eco-friendliness.
Other opportunities to get involved are offered by the United Nations Association of South Africa (UNASA) UP, a society that is dedicated to furthering the SDGs. With multiple events throughout the year as well as projects offering volunteering opportunities, UNASA forms a large part of the already flourishing community of UP students and staff that are working to make a positive impact on the environment, as well as furthering economic, social and environmental SGDs in the wider community of Pretoria, and South Africa at large.
Image: Stephanie Cookson