SJC To Co-Host Collaborative Design Storming For Urban Change

Design Storming: Igniting change with collective imagination

Cape Town, in bidding for World Design Capital 2014, committed itself to transforming lives by design – rebuilding community cohesion; reconnecting communities through infrastructural enhancement; and repositioning the city for the knowledge economy. A grand vision, no doubt, but how do we get designers and communities talking the same language and collectively solving pressing social problems to get us there?

The Social Justice Coalition (SJC), Creative Cape Town, and the Cape Town Design Network (CTDN) intends to host a Design Storm from 30 June – 1 July 2012 to discuss a fundamental problem facing residents of informal settlements – refuse collection.

What is a Design Storm?

In 2005, Yahoo started a series of design hacks, bringing together designers, developers, scientists and other geeks in the same physical space for 48 hours of intense collaboration. For Cape Town’s Design Storming sessions, small teams of community members, government, academia, designers and business people will be brought together for 12 hours (two days with six hours of workshopping) around a common problem – such as sanitation, waste management or job creation – as defined by a community-based organisation.

The first Design Storm is set for 30 June and 1 July – in celebration of World Industrial Design Day – at VPUU Precinct 3 in Khayelitsha. Refuse collection is a critical component in ensuring that communities are clean and safe. Failure to adequately collect and dispose of refuse leads to the spread of disease, pests such as rats, contamination of water sources, and blockage of sewerage systems.

Michael Wolf of the CTDN explains why they decided to get involved: “With World Design Capital 2014, we’ve had a lot of designers coming to us and asking how they can get involved and what they can do. We would like to see World Design Capital 2014 as an opportunity to plant a couple of seeds that will involve the community and designers in really bringing about some change. Design Storming is almost like an incubation initiative for that.”

Get Involved!


Design Storms are voluntary, fun and open to anyone, but if you’d like to participate in this first session, reply to as soon as possible, as places are limited. Transport to and from the venue will be arranged.  For more information on the SJC contact Dalli Weyers on or 0213618160.

What: Design Storming Session 1

When: 30 June and 1 July, from 10h00 until 17h00

Where: VPUU Precinct 3 in Khayelitsha

If you aren’t able to commit to this weekend, don’t worry: There will be more Design Storms in the near future, and this first sessions’ participants will be asked to present the outcomes of their collective storming to a live audience and panel of judges around a month from now – so watch this space. You can also keep tabs of the #designstorming hashtag on Twitter to follow the workshop’s progress.

Read up on the first design challenge

Read the Social Justice Coalition’s problem statement, outlining the challenges of refuse collection and removal in the townships.

Your challenge will be to co-design a solution with the community, for the community, by the community, that takes into account:

  • Irregular collection of refuse
  • Lack of community awareness about the current collection system
  • Lack of a sense of ownership at a street level
  • No convenient space to store refuse at home
  • Refuse containers (ex-shipping containers) that are inconvenient and unhygienic (locked much of the time and situated nearby water sources)
  • Refuse removal contractors who are not held accountable for their performance
  • That there is often no recourse for community complaints
  • The need for viable recycling solutions


SJC Problem Statement:

Litter, Refuse and Refuse Collection

Drafted By Dalli Wayers (

Cape Town’s Informal Settlements

“The lived experience of people in informal settlements is a dehumanising defiance of the constitutional and moral obligations that require the state to treat every person as having equal dignity and rights. Uncollected rubbish, floating faeces and the ever-present threat of crime are constants in the lives of people such as Nomlungisi Qezo and her family, residing in Khayelitsha’s informal settlements … Her demands are simple – clean and safe sanitation, regular refuse collection, and tarred roads with electricity.”[1]

There are roughly 230 Informal Settlements in the City of Cape Town. Approximately 30% of the City’s households – almost one million people – live in inadequate housing and depressed physical environments. With a housing backlog of at least 334 000 requests and only 8 500 new housing opportunities per annum, it is evident that it will take many decades to provide houses to all those in need[2]. This will be further delayed due to the approximately 50 000 people who enter the City each year, many of whom will seek residence in informal settlements[3]. This high rate of urbanisation makes the realisation of increased access to basic services today a priority in order to avoid an even bigger backlog in the future.

Litter, Refuse and Refuse Collection

In an interview with the Cape Times newspaper on May 14th, Cape Town Executive Mayor Patricia De Lille, slammed the city and some officials for failure to monitor refuse collection and to keep poor areas clean, saying more developed areas like the city centre were being prioritised. Despite Cape Town having received accolades for being a clean city, the Mayor pointed out that this was not reflected in certain communities[4].

Refuse collection is a critical component in ensuring that communities are clean and safe. Failure to adequately collect and dispose of refuse leads to the spread of disease, pests such as rats, contamination of water sources, and blockage of sewerage systems.

Informal Settlements can in part be characterised by high levels of visible and unhygienic litter. There are multiple factors that contribute to this. Refuse is often collected irregularly, residents are not briefed on the collection system, and there is little recourse for complaints as refuse collection is outsourced to contractors who have little interest in reporting their own failure to perform their duties to the City.

Existing Service Delivery Agreements with refuse collection contractors also requires them to undertake street sweeping, litter picking, illegal dumping removal, and cleaning of all public areas in the entire demarcated area. This is demonstrably not taking place in the vast majority of informal settlements.

At street level there is an absence of a sense of ownership, a lack of convenience in discarding of refuse, illegal dumping, stray dogs and rodents scattering refuse by tearing open refuse bags, flooding that also scatters refuse, the absence of a secure space to store refuse prior to collection, a sense of powerlessness given the past, present and perceived future levels of litter, a ‘tragedy of the commons’ scenario where individual attempts to change the situation seem futile etc.

At present refuse collection in the majority of Cape Town’s informal settlements is aided by the placement of unaltered shipping containers on sidewalks and thoroughfares. Residents are required to walk, some for quite a distance, to the containers to discard of their refuse. Prior to this step however residents have no convenient and secure space to store their refuse. In the Cape Times article Mayor De Lille stated, which impacts on this lack of convenient and secure storage: “We can’t give one household one wheelie bin. This will be a budgetary issue because we will have to buy more wheelie bins.”

The unaltered shipping now-refuse-collection containers are closed and locked in the late afternoon, and often remained locked for days resulting in garbage pilling up on the sidewalks, close to homes.

These containers are placed on sidewalks and thoroughfares to increase ease of refuse collection by the City of Cape Town’s contracted solid waste removal companies. However, these thoroughfares are also the most convenient for reticulation services, which means that these refuse containers often sit close to communal water sources. This has severe health implications. (The Khayelitsha Health District for instance has the highest infant mortality rate in the City of Cape Town at 34.85 deaths per 1000 – 40% higher than the citywide average. In a recent public letter, three acclaimed pediatric experts attributed this to poor sanitary conditions in informal settlements.[5])

A lack of convenient and secure means to store individual household refuse, the pilling up of garbage bags outside locked shipping containers and the easy access to refuse when the unaltered containers are open leads to rodent infestations and problems with stray dogs.

Nomasinla Boki, a resident of ‘Island’ (situated between a highway and a blocked drainage canal) in Khayelitsha’s TR Section, says her daughter Anathi first experienced a rat bite, on the mouth, when she was just six months old.

“She was bitten again when she was one year old … They eat our furniture, and when it is raining they run inside the house. When they walk it’s like someone is dragging something inside the house. They even jump on top of our beds when we’re asleep and we can’t even see them because we don’t have electricity.”[6]

When the refuse-collection containers are open, there is also nothing that stops young children from entering the containers. This puts them at risk of gastrointestinal diseases and dangerous contact with rodents and stray dogs. According to MAYCO member JP Smith, in July 2011, there are “at least” 230 000 stray dogs in the Cape Town Metropolitan Area[7].

Refuse collection – the emptying of the containers, is also not ideal. Individual bags are carried out of the containers by hand, which is time consuming and places employees of the solid waste removal companies at unnecessary risk of ill health.

Clearly numerous factors impact on the state of litter, refuse and refuse collection in Cape Town’s Informal Settlements – factors that negatively impact on the lived experience and dignity of residents. A solution, although focused would have to consider the contractual responsibilities of current City mandated contractors, improved oversight by city officials, the potential for social audits of services rendered by active citizens, practical and concrete interventions that redefine the relationship people have with their refuse, practical steps that would allow solutions to start with and from a “clean-slate”, so to speak, and solutions that residents can take ownership of.


[2] City of Cape Town. Water Services Development Plan for the City of Cape Town 2011/2012 – 2015/16

[3] City of Cape Town. Water Services Development Plan for the City of Cape Town 2011/2012 – 2015/16


[5] Loening, W., Kibel, M. and Reynolds, L., ‘Informal settlements at high risk’, 30 June 2011, accessible at: or professionals-endorse-sjc-campaign-for-clean-safe-sanitation



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