Waste management businesses are saving the planet

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South Africa’s landfills are rapidly piling up and there’s urgent need for more recycling businesses to help reduce the negative impact waste has on the environment.
According to a report by the Recycling of Waste and Scrap in South Africa 2021, South Africa generates 108 million tons of waste annually, 90% of which still goes to the country’s landfill.
Two Cape Town-based entrepreneurs are creating jobs and saving the environment through their businesses. Sebenza Waste is a business that creates smart-collection platforms for food waste and recycling material and Kerby is a recycling business that collects recyclable materials from around 2500 houses, 30 complexes and 30 schools in Cape Town.
Before starting her business in 2018, Nokuthula Masiba, the Founder and Managing Director of Sebenza Waste, worked for a company that promoted environmental consciousness. She realized that several areas in her surroundings had illegal dumping sites which were frequented by waste pickers that were trying to collect recyclable material to make an income.
“People dump their food in illegal dumping sites which leads to contamination. It was not healthy for the waste pickers to separate and sort waste in those conditions. I decided to create a platform where there is separation from source,” said Nokuthula.
Sebenza Waste’ encourages communities to see value in their waste by showing them how to make money from it. They connect waste pickers to registered recycling companies and encourage them to register so their household’s food waste buckets can be collected.
Greg Player, Founder and Director of Kerby, started his business in 2015 because he wanted to reduce waste ending up in landfills.
“Our purpose is to help the planet breathe. There is so much litter that chokes up our rivers, ecosystems, and oceans. We want to make a difference by turning waste into perfectly good reusable or recycled products,” said Greg.
At Kerby, they collect the recyclables from the customers who have signed up for the collection services. They collect bags of material and take them back to their factory where they have a team that sorts items which can be used to make other products.
Sebenza Waste and Kerby are important businesses because many recyclable and reusable materials end up in landfills or illegal dumping sites.
Recycling has environmental and economic benefits. Job creation also drove Nokuthula and Greg to start their businesses.
“I noticed that waste pickers were not getting paid enough from what they had collected. So, we wanted to create a platform where we could connect them to recyclers to get value for collections and increase their income,” said Nokuthula.
Sebenza Waste is currently working together with a company that has employed food waste champions and they also have 13 groups of waste pickers; each group has around six to seven people employed.
“Once we have collected the recycling, we take it to our depot, where we have a team of people that sort all the materials into the different classifications,’’ said Greg. Kerby has a team of 24 people, from those working in admin to the drivers, collectors, and sorters.
Various challenges exist for recycling businesses, from the lack of funding and insufficient government support to the lack of encouragement to get all citizens involved in recycling initiatives.
Currently, Sebenza Waste is working on implementing partnerships with businesses and restaurants for food waste collection. They are also working on creating a product that will help with the fermentation process, kill microbes and the smell of food so it to be stored longer without any maggots and rodents.
Kerby is exploring options to expand into the manufacturing of goods made from the recycled material they collect. Having an internal manufacturing division would increase the number of employees and create upskilling opportunities for existing employees.
Both Greg and Nokuthula are very proud of their businesses and are looking forward to seizing opportunities the future.