Waste-preneurs grow a better, greener economy

2013-09-07 00:00

COLLECTING rubbish to earn money may not be a glamorous way of living. However, for some of the people who belong to the Wildlands Trust network of waste-preneurs, it is a small way to make ends meet and the beginning of the road to a bigger future.

Each plastic bottle, newspaper and tin they collect can become recycling materials that can be re-used. At the same time they are helping to clean up the environment and lower our carbon footprint.

This week Engen invested R4,5 million in the project as they recognised the enormous potential of the Wildlands Recycling project. This investment will mean that Wildlands Trust’s waste collectors will now see the fruit of their labour pay off.

In addition to getting equipment to make their recycling job easier, their workplace has been upgraded and they will have an opportunity to upgrade their skills.

Buildings have replaced the draughty shed they worked in previously. A conveyor belt system has been installed to help them sort through the bags of waste to find the items that are most valuable. The workers sort mounds of waste into plastic, paper, metal and glass and then further re-sort items into smaller sub-groups.

Wildlands CEO Andrew Venter said he believed that their waste-preneurs worked hard to put food on the table for their families, but he recognised that they also had big dreams. “We know that these people work as waste-preneurs to make a living but everyone has their own passion. They have been limited by inadequate schooling and lack of opportunities. Now we have a chance to help them move up the ladder.”

The Engen funds have helped to create two training rooms. These will be used to give the waste-preneurs skills in numeracy, literacy and computer skills. This will allow them to leave the project at some stage and find better work.

The Wildlands waste recycling project has had a huge impact in the two years since it started by providing people with a chance to earn a living. It has also changed their mindset by showing them the value of waste materials.

Pietermaritzburg school headmaster Siva Gounden of Deccan Road Primary School said he bought into the idea as a way of cleaning up the school and its surrounds. However, the Wildlands Recycling Project has had a much bigger impact on the school. He said: “Our students collect waste and are aware of the value of recycling.”

In 2012 Wildlands recycled more than four million kilograms of waste. Engen’s investment has helped in the building of a new office block, training rooms, a canteen for staff, and a new toilet for disabled people.

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