A township based recycling business is increasingly gaining recognition for its services and impact on the community, prompting a leading waste management NPO to donate them a state-of-the-art recycling machine, as part of their strategy to assist capable new entrants in the sector to grow.
K1 Recycling, a plastic collection (buy back centre) company based in Katlehong, a sprawling township east of Johannesburg received a baling machine, an industrial machine that is used to compress recyclables like plastic, metal scraps and paper into bales from PETCO as part of their drive to support budding recycling businesses.
K1 Recycling is fast becoming one of the most successful township-based waste management and recycling companies in the region. Established in 2011 by husband and wife, Tshepo and Thando Mazibuko, Managing member and CEO respectively, the company was created with the intention of contributing to the national economy as a whole.
According to the founders, the company is firmly committed to community development, in a sense that it teaches the community about the importance of waste collection and separation for a healthy environment, and additionally helps the community to use this as an opportunity to generate income for themselves. The community members collect plastic recyclables from bins and dump sites and sell them to K1 Recycling at an agreed cost per kilogram.
“This project is important particularly for the youth, given the high levels of crime and unemployment in our area.Whenever we come across a young person sitting idle and complaining about lack of opportunities, we challenge them to start collecting plastic recyclables and to sell them to us. At first they can be reluctant about the idea of picking up litter, but soon see that the benefits far outweigh the negatives,” explains Tshepo.
According to Tshepo, Petco put out a call for proposals from small companies working with PET plastic, to apply for assistance that will help their businesses grow. K1 responded with its proposal and got short listed with other companies across the country. This was followed by a series of interviews and assessments conducted by Petco. The business eventually got chosen as one of the companies to get sponsored with a baling machine, worth R250 000.
PETCO is a non – profit organisation established in 2004 with a special focus of promoting and improving the waste management and recycling of post consumer Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) products, on behalf of all stakeholders in the PET industry in South Africa.
Tshepo notes that transportation of plastic material is a challenge for the business, as it takes a lot of space and is thus difficult and costly to transport. However with this new machine he believes the situation will improve considerably, as they will now be able to compact the plastic into bales of approximately 100 kg, which is three times larger than the machine they previously used could manage. This means that they can now transport more material at once and improve efficiencies and impact.
“The increase in volumes means we can bale faster and increase our turnaround time. This will enable us to pay better prices to our suppliers .This will certainly also help create more jobs,” he adds.
The rapid growth of the business has presented certain challenges. At present they only have one small truck which needs to make several trips a day to collect the material and deliver it to recycling companies. This process is costly and time consuming, as one truck is not big enough to meet the demands of their clients.
“Our suppliers are scattered and have no means to deliver the plastic themselves, so we often need to go and collect ourselves. This also hinders us from paying better prices for the material,” explains Tshepo.
Despite these challenges, Tshepo is optimistic about the future of his company, and believes these challenges will help him grow and also gain experience as an entrepreneur.
“My business recently got selected to become part of the Old Mutual Legends business support programme. This indicates growth and progress in my business. The assistance and mentorship I’m receiving from the programme has already contributed to our success and helped me overcome some of the obstacles that come with running a business,” he says.
It is beyond doubt that K1 Recycling is an advocate of environmental awareness and supports their community’s use of the resources available to them to make a living and contribute to the national economy. Not only has the business created seven full time jobs and provided a market to over 500 community members who supply them, but they have also become a viable answer to Katlehong Municipality’s challenges of overcrowding and lack of capacity at landfills.
K1 recycling plans to expand in future and hopes to become the leading recycling business in the country. Tshepo believes that the new machine will improve their chances of achieving that goal, as well as helping them with their quest to become a major role player in contributing to the economy of South Africa.
“We want to create sustainable jobs and make a lasting contribution. There is nothing more fulfilling than to have someone who was unemployed thank you for saving them from poverty and showing them a way to support their families. This is why we work hard every day; to make a difference,” concludes Tshepo with a smile.
About: Abram Molelemane
Abram Molelemane is a journalism graduate from the Tshwane University of Technology. He has written for various publications such as Wealthwise magazine and Reckord newspaper. In 2011 he was nominated for the Reckord print journalist of the year award. He is currently employed as the media officer at Fetola, www.fetola.co.za