The waste sector has capacity to solve the ever-increasing unemployment rate, especially among the youth of the country. This is the view of our youth month feature in the waste sector, owner of Greener Pastures Thabiso Hlongwane who runs buy-back centres and monthly clean-ups in Tembisa and Alexandra which predominantly have had waste issues.
Greener Pastures specializes in on-site waste management, collection and transporting of waste, as well as sorting waste for recycling. “Our staff sort the recyclables into the different streams, arrange for the recyclables to be recycled, and hence we minimize the waste sent to landfill.” “This recycling process results in reduced costs, as well as a more environmentally friendly footprint.”
“Our vision is to become leaders in the waste and recycling industry, with a proven track record of quality service, operational excellence in waste management, reducing waste going to landfill; while impacting our community positively by creating jobs with recycling.”
Thabiso says he wanted Greener Pastures to become a premium brand in the integrated waste management and recycling industry by increasing the volumes of materials recycled. “We also strive to encourage non-recyclers to recycle and contribute towards the acceleration of South Africa’s integrated waste management and recycling growth.”
Coupled with creating and maintaining awareness around recycling, Hlongwane said they also wanted to improve their efficiencies in the transporting and recycling of waste.
The 30-year-old put waste in his crosshairs in 2013 after he matriculated but unfortunately did not qualify for his dream choice of studying law. “I couldn’t just sit around and wait to upgrade marks, and I also had a passion for business but had not yet decided what type of business I would venture into.”
“While trying to figure out what I could do to empower myself, I researched recycling and enquired with a few of the guys I used to see working in the streets.”
He said after gaining insight into it and its importance, his passion grew when he saw how it could empower him and create jobs in the process. “I extended the research I was doing, then went to the ground and started collecting in my vicinity and Greener Pastures began to grow and the community began to be receptive to the awareness we were creating.”
They looked at gaps in waste which they could exploit and rented out some equipment to get the start they needed. As operations grew, he managed to purchase a van in 2016 to increase collections which spurred the business on leading to them also receiving contracts in two local malls.
Greener Pastures also won a green competition in 2020 which opened doors for funding and support in terms of infrastructure and allowed the company to go from seven employees to 20.
He said it was high time for youth to start being receptive to new ways of earning an income.
“We need to look at waste holistically and change the industry so more youth can come to the sector. What deters us the most is access to the market.” “The biggest challenge was and still is access to markets and capital for young businesses run by young entrepreneurs. The challenge is tough, and overcoming that is hard. We are still fighting to get a spot in this market and provide good service.”
He cited great work ethic as something that has kept them afloat in the sector and passion to change the narrative and provide cleaner townships.
“As we remove waste from the spaces around us, formalize the sector and give dignity to everyone in the value chain we are also creating a sense of pride.”
He said a place like Ekurhuleni has had waste collection issues and this has been exacerbated by several factors and to be part of a cohort doing their bid to change the situation felt good. “The journey is still long for us; we would like to also contribute to the waste-to-energy space in the long term but that needs money and currently support is very minimal.”
He said this was also why he was in the process of doing a master’s in environmental law to help change and shape the law around waste and waste management.”
“My short-term plan with Greener Pastures is to create jobs, and in the medium term is changing perceptions around waste and waste collections which has been largely negative, and long-term plans include making impact shaping law and policy around waste among other.”
He challenged youth to research waste and learn how they can contribute to the communities in which they live, work and play.