Photo Credit: Roots & Shoots South Africa

The community of Diepsloot are using EcoBricks to purchase much-needed items for their homes a concept that will boost the entire township.


Diepsloot, Johannesburg (11 February 2020) – The Wot-If? Trust and Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots South Africa have collaborated on an EcoBricks project that is changing the lives of children and adults in Diepsloot, a township on the outskirts of Northern Johannesburg.

We often hear of recycling exchange programmes designed to educate the youth; promoted by the option of exchanging recyclables for useful items such as sweets, stationery and toys. However, when we heard about the Wot-If? programme, we truly smiled. It started out as a youth project but has expanded to allow adults to join the exchange as well.

The project started in 2016 when Roots & Shoots joined forces with Wot If?. They helped to educate the children about making EcoBricks. From there it grew, and in 2018, they set up a “boot sale” which was used to exchange the bricks for items needed in the homes of the children.

The programme expanded again in 2019 to include adult participation when a container was donated to Wot If? The container became the base for the Ecotrading store. Today, adults work diligently to make EcoBricks which they can then exchange for items around the home or even food. The exchange has been most beneficial to adult participants, especially those that are unemployed. The option to use points, known as Ecobucks, for food has given many some much-needed dignity during hard times.

Some of the things that can be purchased using the Ecobucks includes school stationery, clothing, household items such as crockery and cutlery, picture frames, food items etc. Each EcoBrick earns the person 50 to 60 Ecobucks depending on the weight of the bottle.

Points are also earned if participants (mostly students take part in this) do other forms of recycling or bring in wet-waste for composting. These alternatives have seen participants actively cleaning up their immediate areas, which also boosts the morale of other community members.

During 2019, students collected a whopping 1.3 tonnes of wet-waste off the streets, and it was used to make compost for the community garden.

One young man saved 350 Ecobucks to buy a well-loved double pram for his mom. He said the pram would make it easier for her to walk with the children through the township.

The secondhand pram was donated to the Trust. Wot If? accept donations from the public to help them stock the Ecotrading store. All items are welcomed as long as they are still in good condition. We spoke to the team and were given a list of some useful items they need. They are looking for items that would specifically cater to their adult participants as well as items for school-aged students.

  • School Shoes
  • Unbranded School Uniforms
  • Socks
  • Textbooks
  • Clothing (Specifically more adults sizes needed)
  • Non-perishable Food Items
  • Soft Toys
  • Baby Clothes
  • Any Home Items – All in working condition.

The Trust also runs a textbook exchange, so if a student or child uses their Ecobucks to buy textbooks, they can return them at the end of the year for new ones. The Trust is also looking for a donation of a large standing scale to help them more accurately work with the recyclables.

How they use the EcoBricks

The EcoBricks are being collected and used to help improve the infrastructure of other organisations. They identified the Father Louis Blondel Centre as a recipient for an EcoBrick structure. A wall is being constructed and thanks to all participants, they have more than enough to complete the project.

People are also being taught to build furniture using the bricks. The skill is becoming more valuable as the EcoBrick trend grows locally and globally.

Wot If? is building hope within the community and creating real change for all those involved in its various projects. Their goal is to see these projects spread throughout communities in South Africa. They continuously develop projects that are replicable and scalable.

Anyone wanting to get involved with the Wot If? Trust or Roots & Shoots, can email Rita here. More information about the Trust can be sourced via their website here or Facebook.

Sources: Good Things Guy Interview
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About the Author

Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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