Changing lives through recycling in Ngwelezane Township

Changing lives through recycling in Ngwelezane Township
23 March 2017

Changing lives through recycling in Ngwelezane Township

Two years ago, Nokubonga Mnyango was dreaming about making a better life for herself and her family. She noticed the need for litter collection in her small community of Ngwelezane and, after doing some research, learned that some of the waste that was present in the township actually had value; more than this, she learned that there are businesses who would pay for this so-called waste. Empowered by this information, Nokubonga resigned from her job and began collecting this recyclable waste. Fast forward 18 months and Nokubonga has now doubled her salary while providing much-needed employment opportunities for members of her community through her business, Uthando Recycling. This is her story.

With her husband’s support, Nokubonga started running her recycling business from her home in Ngwelezane Township. Through her hard work and determination, two representatives of the Department of Environmental Affairs acknowledged her commitment to providing her community with a solution to the litter problem, and they offered her walled premises for her business at the uMhlathuze Municipality.

Receiving even more recognition for her efforts, Nokubonga won 1st prize in the waste category of the ILO_uMhlathuze Responsible Tourism Challenge, which she combined with the funds from trading in her car to purchase a scale, a utility vehicle and a cage for collections. With these additional resources, Nokubonga is now able to collect waste directly from the community and employ two full time staff members alongside a number of casual staff for busy periods.

Buy-back centres require a certain volume of recyclables to be delivered for trade, which disqualifies individuals who are not able to collect those quantities of recyclables on their own. With her new resources, Nokubonga is able to collect directly from these community members, pay them for their recyclables collected, and then take the combined collection to buy-back centres, acting as a middle-(wo)man for her community and providing them with income opportunities.

Nokubonga has expanded her business’ reach and she is now collecting around 7 tonnes of waste from a number of taverns, shops and schools and selling that waste to MPACT Recycling. Roughly 500kg of the 7 tonnes of waste is PET plastic.

Nokubonga and her staff have demonstrated their commitment to educating themselves and others about the importance of recycling by attending numerous PETCO workshops aimed at assisting recycling business owners in their efforts to create a sustainable business. PETCO is proud to support Nokubonga and Uthando Recycling by providing them with a trailer to further expand the business by participating in the CCBSA/PETCO school collection programme and have a greater impact on the community of Ngwelezane.