Recycle Swop Shop, Hermanus

The Recycle Swop Shop is a concept that began in Hermanus’ township, Zwelihle. One woman, dismayed by the lack of play-space and the litter that surrounded the children there, helped create the project, elegant in its simplicity. Children collect junk, receive goodies in return, and learn arithmetic alongside good values. Every Wednesday is Recycle Swop Shop Day in the Hermanus township of Zwelihle. It takes place at the Hou Moed (Chin Up) Centre, which comes alive with the laughter of children each afternoon. You’ll find some in a large hall, learning to ballroom dance. Others are gathered around pool tables. The pre-teens are picking through a box full of toys and the tots are rootling through a sandbox outside. In one part of the yard, you’ll see a long line of excited children, from tiny to teenage, starting to form in front of a fenced area.

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"Helping children to help themselves" through recycling

The Recycle Swop Shop is an innovative community development project in Hermanus that enriches children’s lives by encouraging them to take initiative and rewarding that effort.

Their mission is to help children help themselves.

The RSS has been doing just this since 2003. The project teaches children the value of effort, provides reinforcement of important educational concepts while giving them the opportunity to obtain essential items – their own stationery, toiletries and clothing.

Children collect recyclable material in their community and exchange or “swop” it for points at our RSS collection yard. Using the points, the children can buy items from the shop and also receive a “free” snack. It truly is a hand up and not a hand out.

The project is easily replicated and adapted to meet the needs of any disadvantaged community. They want to encourage people to set up their own Swop Shops in their areas so that more communities can benefit.

Start a Swop Shop in your area!

We have put together some materials we hope will help you in starting your own RSS, which you may download by clicking here. Every RSS will have its own journey to serve specific community needs and becoming a success, but it’s helpful and saves valuable time and energy to learn from each other’s successes and failures – please share any insights into the process that you might have. Here is a summary of our journey:

  1. We located a local recycling agent in our community where the material collected could be directed for reconstitution or reworking. An accessible recycling depot is a prerequisite for a successful RSS project.
  2. We secured a location where the Swop Shop could happen each week. In our case this was a local community centre, Hou Moed, but it could be anywhere – even trailers forming mobile “shops” have had success.
  3. We set a day and time each week that is convenient for the children, bearing in mind the schedules and activities of local schools and sports clubs.
  4. We collected the items needed – supplies for swop, sorting bags for recycling, milk crates to store and display items for the “shop”, coloured marker and paper squares for tickets.
  5. We advertised the concept to a few children in the neighbourhood to start. It then grew via word of mouth. To start on a large scale may be overwhelming and requires more people and resources.
  6. We began keeping records of the numbers of children attending, amounts of recyclables collected and so on. This is essential in tracking your project’s growth and development.
  7. We introduced outings for the children as incentives to collect more, as an educational tool to inform and sensitise children to community and environmental issues.
  8. We informed the local community of your activities through local media and community communication channels
  9. We approached clubs, charities, individuals and businesses to help us as our needs increased. We could use our statistics to prove our success.


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