RICKSON Zvavare and four other members from a waste recycling trust based in Harare will spend seven months in France, courtesy of converting trash into saleable finished products.
Little did Zvavare know that his childhood dream of boarding a plane from this Southern African landlocked country to Europe would come through creativity and ingenuity with products that other people would have thrown away.
“We came to France last month with different artefacts and products made out of waste. We brought four containers of an assortment of various products made from waste for an exhibition running from May to December.
“By the time we return to Zimbabwe in January next year, we would have made good money from this exhibition. To me waste is a source of inspiration, wealth and employment,” Zvavare told NewsDay in a telephone interview from his base in France.
Zvavare said that apart from ensuring a clean and safe environment, waste recycling has great potential to create wealth for individuals engaged in it.
He is a worker at Lynde Francis Trust (LFT) based in Milton Park – one of the organisations engaged in waste recycling that has grown into a big business enterprise.
Lorraine Muwuya, LFT assistant director revealed that her organisation which started just over a decade ago to help HIV positive people eke out a living through available resources, has now grown into a huge business enterprise.
“The late LFT founder, Lynde Francis — through her philanthropic heart, would provide transport and meals to HIV people at her home, but she had limited resources to sustainably assist them. In the end, she thought about collecting waste and recycling it into saleable finished products. That’s how we started the recycling business,” Muwuya said.
LFT kicked off recycling by picking up scrap metal at dumpsites in towns, residential areas and industrial sites. They engaged an experienced metal sculptor who trained others to come up with creative ideas to make objects like birds, flowers, horses, cars, chickens, baboons.
“These wares are sold at various fares including the Home Garden Fare held at Harare Exhibition Park and fares held countrywide by Environment Africa,” Mawuya said.
People from such areas like Mbare, Highfield, Mabvuku-Tafara and Glen View — Harare’s low income suburbs — bring the scrap metal.
Due to the influx of waste pickers at designated sites like the Pomona Dumpsite, pickers are required to register with Harare City Council. The move was interpreted as a way of limiting the number of waste pickers at the dumpsite and as a way of raising revenue on the part of council.
Gerald Gwariro (32) from Hatcliffe — a suburb about 15km north of Harare’s Central Business District says waste collection has been his source of livelihood since he lost his job as a tailor some five years ago.
“I have been surviving on picking up waste material like bottle tops, empty soft drinks and beer cans, empty plastic water bottles, cardboard boxes and scrap metal. We take these to LFT. LFT in turn makes bins, baskets and bags for sale.
“The proceeds from the sale of these items pays school fees for my three siblings because our parents died of HIV four years ago,” Gwariro said.
According to Mawuya, bins made from empty beer cans cost up to $55. From this amount, LFT just takes $5 for administrative purposes and uses the remainder to pay school fees for HIV-orphaned children who bring the waste material to them.
Empty plastic containers of washing powder from Unilever Zimbabwe are used to make dresses, caps and bags which are also used as corporate gifts. Mawuya said a dress made from such plastic bags was sold for $70 at the just-ended Harare International Festival of Arts (Hifa).
Luke Majoko from Mbare also recycles glass. He picks up empty beer bottles and cuts them using sisal fibre to make water glasses for sale.
“Virtually all forms of waste can be recycled. We pick up empty cartons of milk and juice and blend them to make bags. Plastic reels from cassettes that were used in the past can be recycled to make plastic strings used to make baskets, chairs and bins,” Mary Wazara, director of Plastic Corporation that recycles waste.
Leona Tasara from Highfield collects fibre cables discarded by Liquid Telecom to weave baskets, bins and chairs.
She also designs empty plastic bottles of Mahewu beverages into bags and flower pots. Bottletops are also converted into lunch-box holders used by young children to carry food to school. Other products include vinyl bags and hats.
Recently, Environment Africa (EA) in partnership with the Zimbabwe Business Council for Sustainable Development (BCSDZ) facilitated the establishment of viable Waste Management Enterprises in Zimbabwe.
“This is part of a programme that Environment Africa has been running for the past three years called Promotion of Awareness and Action on Waste Management in Zimbabwe which is supported by the Retailers Association of Zimbabwe (RAZ) made up of OK, TM and SPAR.
“To kickstart the Waste Management Enterprises project, potential waste management entrepreneurs and those who are already in the business were taken through a Community-Based Waste Management and Business Management course, which ran for three days over a period of three weeks (June 3, 10, 17 2014),” said Teresa Mungazi, EA Business and Biodiversity officer.
The course was aimed at enhancing community-based, small-scale waste management entrepreneurs’ understanding of the recycling business and enterprise development and in turn enable community members to turn waste into a saleable commodity.
Seventeen participants from different community-based waste management groups in Harare were awarded with certificates of completion of the course.
The line of business of the participants ranged from waste collection, plastic recycling, (paper recycling) hand-paper-making and waste refurbishment.
At the end of the course each participant had produced a business plan and Environment Africa with the support of RAZ, will assist the qualifying participants with start-up loans and soft loans to start or boost their enterprises.
The establishment of viable Waste Management Enterprises will contribute to the curbing of pollution problems currently being faced in Zimbabwe and divert a considerable amount of waste from the dumpsite.
“By encouraging partnerships, combining environmental welfare and conservation tasks with community empowerment, employment and alternative income generation, this initiative sets an example for community-based waste management and Public Private Community Partnerships (PPCPs).
“The initiative will create income opportunities for the community through employment and waste value addition, re-use and recycling.
“This is a demonstration of how communities, public and private-partnerships can contribute to a sustainable Zimbabwe,” Mungazi added.
Environment Africa and the Business Council for Sustainable Development will ensure that the initiative remains operational and sustainable by providing business mentorship and have already started using the consultancy services of Investor Saint Business Consultants.