Trash for ‘mula’ pays

Environment and families benefit from swapping rubbish for grocery credits

Children in Uitenhage bring trash to the ‘swap shop’ Quinette Goosen directs in Uitenhage and get groceries in return. The project has won a national award
Children in Uitenhage bring trash to the ‘swap shop’ Quinette Goosen directs in Uitenhage and get groceries in return. The project has won a national award
Image: Werner Hills

A snaking queue of children – about 50m long – clutching cardboard and plastic, faces lit up with anticipation – is a sight that puts a smile on Quinette Goosen’s face.

As it should, because the children waiting patiently at the Mula Project are saving the environment – and helping their families by taking home food and toys in exchange for their “rubbish”.

The Mula Project, which is located at the Allanridge Hall in Uitenhage, aims to clean up the environment while helping needy children. It scooped a coveted Petco Public Campaign of the Year Award earlier this month.

The recycling and educational project has had a remarkable impact on the community during the three years it has been functional, helping sustain families in and around the Kamesh area with staple foods, clothing, toiletries, stationery or toys.

Once a week, the children also receive a light meal before heading home.

Children, accompanied by the odd adult, exchange their recyclable items – plastic containers and bottles and cardboard boxes – for “mula” which they use to buy groceries.

Since the project’s inception, more than 45 tons of PET plastic, 25 tons of cardboard and eight tons of non-recyclable items have been removed from the communities.
Uitenhage Mula Project managing director Goosen, 57, a retired teacher, entered the project into the competition.

“Even though the award came without any prize money, we have been recognised on a national level as a trustworthy project, ” she said.

“There are too many children who are living in poverty and we want to make a difference by teaching them not to beg, but to see the opportunity to do something for themselves.”

Goosen, who founded the project along with Glenise Howard, 66, and Olive Grimsel, 63, serves about 250 children each week at the Allanridge Civic Hall in Uitenhage.

Brenda Cloete, 37, and her nine-year-old son Brendon visit the swap shop every week.

“This is a very good thing for our community and our household because we are able to have food on our table just by exchanging plastic that we collect here and there.

“This week he was able to get a bag filled with groceries and I can see he is very proud about it,” she said.

Brendon managed to gather 12 large maize bags filled with plastic bottles in exchange for 41 mulas. He used his mula to buy oil, soya mince soup mix, two tins of pilchards, maize meal and noodles.

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