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TUT Sustainable Together design project gets international recognition

by Gerrit Bester

The Department of Design Studies (Fashion Design programme) at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) is mindful of the effect that its actions have on the environment and actively goes the extra mile to make sure that its impact in this regard is minimised. The latest of such environmentally conscious endeavours is a recycling project, called the TUT Sustainable Together design project, that aims to use non-biodegradable (non-decomposing) textile waste to fill potholes.

The project was awarded funding of 6 000 Euros by the Goethe-Institut and the British Council towards promoting a sustainable circular model in South Africa with the Lampstand Teacher Training College, the partner institution in Kenya. The latter is headed by Linder Cheruno.

Together with Cheruno, the project team comprises of a fourth-year Fashion Design student, Christopher Tom, and his lecturers, Soloshna Naidoo, Professor Anne Mason and Karla Tissiman.

Research findings indicate that South Africa produces 90 million tons of textile waste annually, of which only 1% is recycled. Due to the volume of textile waste produced, the sustainable model had to explore how it can be recycled effectively and not end up in fertile landfills.

Unfortunately, the fashion and textile industries play a huge role in waste disposal, with dire consequences to the environment. Fashion Design students produce many garments and there is an abundant amount of textile waste that is discarded into bins.

The proposal by Tom and the team is intent on putting the latter to good use and finding a sustainable and innovative business solution to the pothole challenge in the country.

By the end of last year, the South African National Roads Agency said the country’s roads had an estimated 25 million potholes. Potholes are not a mere inconvenience but can cause damage to vehicles and in severe cases lead to devastating road accidents.

According to Tom, the textile waste will be harvested at the Department of Design Studies (Fashion Design) and sorted into piles of biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste. Following which, the waste will be shredded and wetted before being formed into golf-ball-sized balls known as pot-fillers. The latter will be popped into the potholes and finished off with cement and tar.

Naidoo indicated that the project is also community-based and part of a nation-building objective as the pot-fillers were developed by women participants from the Tshwane Leadership Foundation in Pretoria that were affected by unemployment and Gender-based Violence (GBV). Participants received a stipend amount and meal packs over the time they spent making the pot-fillers.

In March, Tom and the team piloted the project where potholes were filled in Ga-Rankuwa, north of Pretoria, under the supervision of the local municipality. The efficacy of using the pot-fillers is closely being monitored.

The project was also successfully carried out in Kenya and project managed by Prof Mason.

The TUT Sustainable Together design projectwill be showcased at Levi’s, the Haus of Strauss Africa, Parktown North, Johannesburg, on 13 May 2023 from 13:00 to 19:00. The TUT team will be showcasing a documentary of the work done in South Africa and Kenya at the event.

Community engagement! Women participants at the Tshwane Leadership Foundation, Burgers Park, Pretoria, developing pot-fillers as part of the TUT Sustainable Together design project.

Women participants of the TUT Sustainable Together design project in Kenya.

The TUT Sustainable Together design projectwill be showcased at Levi’s, the Haus of Strauss Africa, Parktown North, Johannesburg, on 13 May 2023.


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