Medical waste plant opens

2012-07-03 00:00

AFTER a long journey through banking, tourism, jazz and talent recruitment, Estcourt-born Sifiso Khuzwayo has developed what is every entrepreneur’s dream — a seemingly recession-proof business.

The 49-year-old entrepreneur, who told The Witness that he is always on the lookout for a business opportunity, spent six years establishing Ecocycle Waste Solutions.

The company has just launched its state-of-the-art waste disposal and treatment plant in Mkondeni, Pietermaritzburg, in a R15 million investment that has created 120 direct and 150 indirect jobs.

Khuzwayo’s business partner is operations director Mduduzi Ngcobo.

Central to their ambitions is the plant, which was imported from the U.S. and is able to destroy medical waste from hospitals, clinics, doctor’s rooms and pathology labs in an environmentally friendly manner using technology known as a microwave disinfection system (MDS).

Khuzwayo said the establishment of the business required a great deal of patience, determination and perseverance.

“This [project] started in 2006. We spent R1,2 million out of our own pockets just to get the licensing in place. We realised that there is just not enough capacity in South Africa. In KwaZulu-Natal there is only one other facility.

He added: “This business is recession-proof. You make money even when there is a downturn. There is a barrier to entry.

“Also, unlike selling a [physical] product, here you are paid to destroy things … There is a ready market and there will always be a need for the service.”

The plant — a first for the African continent — will destroy waste such as human fluids, bandages, gloves, syringes and other material.

“It does not produce any harmful emissions … [or] liquid effluent from the treatment process. It also uses very little electricity.”

Khuzwayo read for a BCom, which he did not complete, but he has excelled as a manager and entrepreneur.

He worked in banking for 12 years, in marketing, business banking and business development in Durban.

In 1998, he joined Tourism KZN and worked primarily as a chief operating officer.

However, a burning desire to work for himself prompted Khuzwayo to launch Upstage Café at the Playhouse in Durban.

“I’ve always had a passion for music from my school days … From my time at Tourism KZN I learnt that jazz and tourism go together. Visitors were always on the lookout for good entertainment venues. In 2004, I moved on as I got tired of … the long hours as it left no time for my family.”

Khuzwayo then worked hand in hand with his wife, Angela September, in their recruitment business in Durban. That’s when he began working on Ecocycle Waste Solutions.

He said: “Whatever I do, I always look to create jobs. I travel to the U.S. frequently … and I have visited other countries and seen the world, but this is home and I believe that everyone has to do something to make South Africa a better place. I want to leave a legacy for our children.”

 

BOX: MEDICAL WASTE DISPOSAL

“We have a cradle to grave responsibility for medical waste,” stressed Sifiso Khuzwayo.

In layman’s terms, the process they follow includes:

- Collection of waste by staff who are trained to handle hazardous material;

- Electronic tracking of the transportation of the material (clients have access to this information);

- A thorough check process upon arrival at the plant;

- Processing of material in the plant (maximum processing time is 48 hours);

- The Microwave Disinfection System (MDS) combines microwave disinfection technology with precise computer controls. Waste material is lifted and dumped by the lifting system into the MDS, by semi-automatic operator action;

- Volume of the material is reduced by 80% and is rendered safe for disposal in a landfill site.

- WR

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