A SENIOR Environmental Management Authority (Ema) official has challenged youth, especially artists to create an economy out of renewable waste materials.

“We also create platforms for artists to showcase their products at local, national and international platforms. We encourage recycling artists to engage the agency if they require further support,” said Batsirai Sibanda, Ema’s senior environmental education and publicity officer for Harare Metropolitan province.

Ema is a statutory body responsible for ensuring the sustainable utilisation of natural resources and the protection of the environment and coming up with plans to prevent pollution and environmental degradation. It is a parastatal under the Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry ministry.

Sibanda told NewsDay Life & Style that the move dovetails with government’s clean-up exercises as well as complementing already existing efforts by local authorities and their agencies who have always supported recycling artists in the form of linking them with the buyers of their products.

“Recycling is an untapped business that presents great potential especially for growing entrepreneurs. All waste streams including plastics, glass and metals present viable business ventures and what is important is to identify a suitable niche which makes business sense for one,” she said.

“Starting a recycling enterprise, especially for women and youths, can provide livelihoods while at the same time bringing to an end the solid waste management challenge the nation is currently facing, thus bridging the gap between environmental management and human livelihoods.

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“Materials that are being recycled profitably are plastics (18%), metals (7%), textile (6%), electronic waste (2%), glass (2%).”

Recently, Ema organised a meeting with youths at the Chitungwiza Publicity Association to deliberate on the recycling potential.

Sibanda said this would be done through waste separation at source, at household and institutional levels. “Once they start to separate recyclable materials, biodegradables and non-recyclables, you will find that the bin takes longer to fill up,” she said.

In Chitungwiza, Ema is working with a number of community-based organisations that collect/buy recyclable materials.

“We encourage those that are in or want to venture into the recycling sector to always ensure that they have personal protective equipment. This will ensure that they are not exposed to diseases or toxic material while they are collecting recyclable materials,” Sibanda said.

Belgian artist Wim Delvoye is well-known for transforming used objects into remarkable artworks.

In Zimbabwe, Mutare-based businesswoman Beauty Hughs, and National Arts Council of Zimbabwe board member Moffat Takadiwa are examples of recycling artists.