The necessity for a collective effort in sustainable waste management has inspired the following organisations, created by women, to make a difference, both environmentally and socially. 

Salphy Nkoana - the Masupatsela Cooperative

The group has been operating in Tembisa, Gauteng since 2011 and is supported by Ekurhuleni Municipality. It was started by chairperson Salphy Nkoana with the help of other women to reduce poverty in the community. They collects recyclables from more than 600 homes, shopping centres and schools.

“We wake up early in the morning to collect recycling materials from PET (polyethylene terephthalate plastic) to brown and green bottles and others from the street, and by going door-to-door within the community." Salphy explains.

Their business has grown to 15 workers, including the five founders and a whole community of contributors.

Salphy Nkoana has worked hard to make a difference in her community.

“By doing this we educate people about recycling and its key elements – reduce, reuse and recycle – which is then followed by a handout of refuse bags provided to us by the Ekurhuleni Municipality." She went on to explain, “When we create this awareness, people also want to collect materials and sell to us. We encourage this too as it generates an income for many in the community.”

After collecting the materials they come back to the yard built for them by the municipality and sort out the recyclables before selling them to factories.

“This place has really changed my life, I can now put food on the table and provide for my family. I am even able to pay school fees for my son to attend a special needs school, and now he’s performing better than he ever has!” 

Quinette Goosen, Glinise Howard and Olive Grimsel - the Uitenhage Recycling Mula Swop Shop Project

This project in the Eastern Cape is based on the principle of exchange. It gives children the opportunity to exchange recyclable items for food, stationery, toiletries, clothing and even toys.

Children earn Mula points from the weight of recyclables which they bring to the Mula collecting point at the Allanridge Civic Centre each Wednesday. In return they exchange the points they have earned for food, clothing, educational items or toys. There are more than 700 children registered at the Mula project.

Quinette Goosen of the Uitenhage Recycling Mula Swop-shop Project

Created in 2015 by Quinette Goosen, Glinise Howard and Olive Grimsel, the swop shop project benefits up to 300 impoverished households a week and has, to date, removed 73 902kg of PET plastic from the community. An amazing accomplishment.

“Our focus is on children. The Mula is about offering children the opportunity to exchange plastic and cardboard recyclables for food, clothing, educational material or toys which are available from our on-site shop,” said Quinette.

Cheri Scholtz - PETCO

Headed up by chief executive officer Cheri Scholtz, PETCO was established in 2004 as a way to self-regulate and fund the recycling industry and efforts. 

Cheri said the challenge for PETCO lies in how to "be more effective in linking the formal and informal PET plastic recycling economies through on-going mentorship and enterprise development."

“According to a poverty trends report released by Statistics South Africa last year, female-headed households remain significantly poorer than their male counterparts. We believe PET waste collection and recycling can provide job creation and income-earning opportunities for women trapped in the cycle of poverty.”

Plastic bottles are not trash.

She says that, "in 2017 alone, 2.15 billion plastic bottles were recycled. This saved 578,000m3 of landfill and created 64 000 income-generating opportunities in the process.

“So yes, we should recycle, but let’s be practical about solutions that make sense for us and for our circumstances.”

She says that there is however still lot of work to be done to bring in more women in the core recycling business and believes they are now poised to do just that.

Sign up to W24’s newsletters so you don't miss out on any of our hot stories and giveaways.