What some people see as useless rubbish can be a recycler's treasure, offering an opportunity to make a living. We spoke to three individuals who are doing just that and helping the environment at the same time.

For retired teacher Lucy Nkentshana (65) of Mgobodi in Mpumalanga, recycling returns are very profitable. She collects bottles and crushes them with sticks before selling them to Consol Glass. After retiring she sold Tupperware for a while, but she says that business crumbled. ‘I lost a lot of weight after the business collapsed because of the stress,’ she says. ‘But I realised it doesn’t help crying over spilt milk and I needed to make another plan.’ So she went into the recycling business.

‘I have to grind the bottles until they make up 1000kg,’ she says. It’s hard labour, but it’s better than nothing.’ Lucy has been in the recycling business for more than eight years. She says that for 30 bags each weighing 1000kg, she makes 7 500.00 a month. When the bags are ready she calls Consol and they send a truck to collect them.

‘I am able to buy groceries and take care of my brother's kids with my earnings,’ she says. Currently, she is saving towards buying a recycling machine to compress paper, cans and bottles.

“I am able to buy groceries and take care of my brother’s children with my earnings”

Nomuntu Ndlovu (27) is a partner at SiyaBuddy Recycling and Waste Management based in Steenbok village, Mpumalanga. She learnt about the business through her childhood friend, Siyabonga Tshabalala. Nomuntu says the business is a way for them to give back to their community.

‘I joined Siya in 2016 because of my expertise in business management,’ she says. Nomuntu says they were fortunate enough to receive a loan from the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), which helped with expanding their business and solving logistical problems, as well as allowed SiyaBuddy to create employment for 26 people.

Nomuntu’s wish is to see our earth return to its former glory. ‘We used to plough here,’ she says, ‘but not anymore because it doesn’t rain as often. Even if it does, there is hail because of climate change.’ Her hope is that everyone does their part to tackle climate change, so that future generations can also enjoy the wonders of our planet.

When Michael Magidela (42) lost his construction job in 2005, he was desperate. ‘I had to ask my partner to go back to her home with our child because life was too expensive,’ he recalls. Nearly four years later, his attention was caught by people pushing heavily-laden carts on the side of the road – a familiar sight on South African roads.

‘I didn’t know what they were collecting. I thought they were just collecting everything they found, but when I asked, I discovered they collected materials they could recycle for money. I had nothing to lose, so I joined them,’ says Michael, who now collects bottles, boxes, cans and plastic from rubbish bins in Albertville, Johannesburg every Monday.

Michael takes the cardboard, cans and plastic to Champs Recycling in Newlands, where they weigh it and pay him accordingly. Bottles are taken to a nearby bottle store. In a good month, Michael can make up to 2 000.00. ‘For a kilogram of white plastic containers I get 5.00, while a kilo of boxes gets me 70 cents,’ he says. ‘It’s not much, but it helps put food on the table.’

‘I didn’t want to stand at the traffic lights and beg for money when I still have two hands that work well. I support my child through recycling, and it helps to keep our city’s streets clean,’ he smiles.


CASH FOR TRASH CASH FOR TRASH Reviewed by Jet Club on May 21, 2019 Rating: 5
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