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Trash for cash

Jan 29 2014 07:29
AN enterprising couple from the Umzinyathi District of KwaZulu-Natal have given new meaning to social entrepreneurship by starting a recycling company in Msinga municipality.

Bongiwe Mhlongo and Nhlanhla Langa first identified the highly contagious airborne disease multidrug resistance tuberculosis (MDR-TB) as one of the causes of the high unemployment in the area, and then decided to start a recycling business to address both issues.

TB is especially rife in South Africa, with the World Health Organisation ranking the country second in terms of TB incidence (or the number of cases per capita) and ninth in terms of the actual number of TB cases in its latest heath report.

A serious complication of the TB problem in South Africa has been the emergence of the multi-drug resistant strain, in which TB bacteria can no longer be killed by the two best antibiotics commonly used to cure TB, isoniazid and rifampin.

Mhlongo says one way of managing the spread of the disease is to keep the municipality clean. "In addition to a clean city, we would also be creating jobs and reduce the spread of MDR-TB."

Their idea gave birth to Msinga Recycling in 2013, the only recycling business in the area.

Msinga Recycling will focus on recycling all raw materials and recyclables around Msinga area. The pair hope to eventually also service the nearest municipalities and towns, as well as employ at least 20 full-time and part-time employees.

Mhlongo says they work very closely with the municipality, which has so far assisted them in obtaining permission to work in Pomeroy Landfill.

The municipality also sometimes give them a team of people to help separate recyclables, but the two are looking forward to employing their own team.

Mhlongo says in addition to materials from the landfill, they also collect recyclables from schools and shopping malls in the area.

"We would be able to train a dedicated team about the disease and how recycling can not only help stem MDR-TB, but also mean an income for an unemployed person.

"Our biggest challenge, however, is that we desperately need funding to purchase the proper equipment needed for a fully functional recycling business.

"At the moment Nhlanhla and I are using our own money, which makes it difficult to sustain the business. Apart from Msinga Recycling we don't have other employment, and therefore are not drawing a salary.

"Lack of funding and proper resources also brings about a transporting problem. If our products are not baled they cost a lot to transport, because in recycling you win with weight for that product," says Mhlongo.

The pair say what they need now is guidance on where to get funding to buy resources such as baling machines to help streamline the production process.

"We also need a plastic recycling granulator with blower, a washer, dryer, conveyor belt and extruder.

"If we have the proper resources, I'm sure we will  achieve our set objectives and goals of a cleaner Msinga municipality, creation of jobs in the area, reducing the spread of pandemic diseases like MDR, creating a love for waste in the community as well as showing that you can achieve something from nothing."

Anton Ressel, senior consultant at enterprise development programme Fetola, commends Mhlongo and Langa for their efforts and says our planet needs all the recycling initiatives it can get if we are to survive on it for another millennium.

He has the following advice for the owners of Msinga Recycling:

In terms of your business, while funding is often a necessary element of growth it cannot be seen as the make or break of your survival. Thousands of entrepreneurs have made a success without funding, and yet our tendency in this country is to believe that this is impossible.

Questions to ask are:

What can you do in your business today, to be more efficient and profitable?

How can you grow organically, put some money aside and thereby get yourself into a position to present a compelling case to a potential funder or financier?

Can you partner with existing businesses in your area to increase your footprint, such as a truck owner?

You might be able to attract some support from the department of trade and industry (funding is available if you register a cooperative, for example), and Petco are doing some good things in providing assistance to emerging recycling businesses - check them out.

Click on the image to view the gallery.

 - Fin24

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