Meet South Africa’s Extraordinary Women in Recycling

It’s estimated that humans generate more than 1.30 billion tons of trash a year. The majority of this trash makes its way into landfills as well as the ocean which is harmful to the environment for a number of reasons as we previously discussed in our blog, The Not-so-fantastic Truth About Plastic.”

The good news is that South Africa is rising to the challenge of reducing plastic consumption and pollution, as was demonstrated earlier this year at the inaugural African Marine Waste Conference in Port Elizabeth which saw delegates from across Africa (as well as 10 countries around the globe) unite to explore local solutions to marine pollution.

In light of Women’s Day which took place earlier this month, we thought it was only fitting to pay tribute to two phenomenal South African women who are making significant contributions to South Africa’s recycling industry through their waste management programmes.

Waste management has a fundamental role to play in terms of minimising the amount of chemicals and greenhouse gases which are released from rubbish; reducing the need for raw materials (thereby preserving our rainforests and other natural resources); and stimulating job creation as well as education opportunities.

Without any further ado, we’d like to introduce you to Nokubonga Mnyango, the winner of PETCO’s PET-trepreneur award. PETCO, a PET plastic recycling company, recently hosted its annual awards ceremony to give thanks to noteworthy roleplayers like Nokubonga who are not only furthering South African conservation efforts but positively impacting their local communities.

Nokubonga is an entrepreneur whose business, Uthando Solutions and Trading (PTY) Limited, operates from the Ngwelezane township outside Empangeni where she collects waste from taverns, shops and schools. Last year Nokubonga and her team managed to collect 360 tonnes of PET plastic which they supplied to Mpact – a leading paper and plastics company that utilises recycle-based and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) materials.

“My passion started when I attended a workshop in Durban arranged by PETCO. I realised I could live my dream of operating my own business, bought a bakkie from my earnings and linked disadvantaged recyclers in the community to the markets,” she explains.

Voted the Top Woman in Recycling 2017, Charlotte Lamprecht has certainly left her mark on the local recycling industry. Charlotte’s recycling programme was brought to life ten years ago when she decided that she’d like to do more for her community and approached the Municipality of Riversdale to implement a new policy to help make recycling easier in her region.

Over the years, her project Henque Waste has grown tremendously. Today it supports approximately 400 entrepreneurs per month through its buy-back center and has 81 permanent employees – 48 of whom are women. Last year, Charlotte and her organisation recycled over 3 287 308 kg of material (of which 57 tonnes was PET plastic). Each week, Charlotte and her team collect roughly 120 tonnes of recyclable material which they send to suppliers like Mpact and Console.

Both Nokubonga and Charlotte have demonstrated the enormous impact that one person can have on their community and the planet by striving to do something positive and having the commitment needed to bring a good idea into reality. We should all be asking ourselves, “what can I do to make a difference?”