Recyclers creating jobs for the homeless

2017-04-25 14:00
Two young recyclers, Sanele Mkhize (22, left) and Sthembiso Ngcobo (20), said the Songimvelo recycling initiative has saved them from committing crimes and indulging in drugs as they can now work and get paid for collecting recyclables.

Two young recyclers, Sanele Mkhize (22, left) and Sthembiso Ngcobo (20), said the Songimvelo recycling initiative has saved them from committing crimes and indulging in drugs as they can now work and get paid for collecting recyclables. (Ian Carbutt)

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Two local entrepreneurs have turned litter into job opportunities and a source of income for many youngsters living on the streets of Pieter­maritzburg.

Hugo Ngcobo and Irvan Khumalo founded their company, Songimvelo (conserving nature), after they saw a lucrative business opportunity in waste collection and recycling.

Songimvelo, which was established in 2013, collects and deposits recyclable waste at landfill sites, creates job opportunities, educates the community about recycling and helps keep the city clean.

Ngcobo said since the company’s inception they have been working very closely with young homeless people in the city.

“We educate the homeless about recycling and encourage them to collect recyclables around the city for profit. I’m sure many people have seen them dragging big recycle bags and pushing trolleys around the city,” he said.

The company collects bags of recyclable material from the homeless in the city, weighs them and pays the recyclers cash for their work.

One of the recyclers, Sanele Mkhize (22), who is homeless, told The Witness that recycling has saved him from a life of crime.

“I have learnt that in South Africa we don’t have dirt, everything around us is money. If you work really hard you can earn a decent income ... it all depends on you.

“I can now afford to buy myself food and clothes and I can proudly say that I never go to sleep on an empty stomach,” said Mkhize.

Another recycler, Sthembiso Ngcobo (20), who also lives on the streets, said recycling with Songimvelo saved his life.

“I remember I once mugged someone and when people in town caught me and beat me up, they almost killed me. I woke up in hospital and that is when I decided to stop doing crime.

“My life is much better now. On a normal day I make about R300 a day and I also have a good relationship with many shop owners as I help get rid of unwanted waste for them.

“Although going around dragging this heavy bag every day is tiring, it is all worth it as I work hard for my money and stay out of trouble,” he said.

The two recyclers said many other homeless people have taken to the business. Ngcobo, from Songimvelo, said they sell the recyclable waste to bigger local companies.

Ngcobo said their organisation also provides awareness and environmental education to communities, businesses and schools within the Umgungundlovu District.

“We pay and collect recyclable waste from communities and local business. Instead of paying schools cash for their recyclables we normally compensate them with recreational things like balls and board-games,” said Ngcobo.

Ngcobo said they have received a lot of help from Msunduzi Municipality and the Department of Environmental Affairs, which recently donated a bakkie to assist them in keeping the city clean.

“We are grateful for all the support. Our plan is to dominate this industry and help keep the environment clean,” said Ngcobo.

Co-founder of Songimvelo, Irvan Khumalo, also said they plan to work harder as they have realised how broad the recycling industry is.

“The more waste there is, the bigger we can expand.

“There is a lot of money in recycling and this business has been very good to us financially,” said Khumalo.


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  recycling

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