Collectors like Mlungisi Mavimbela are creating a sustainable future through living a life that is pro-recycling and creating a livelihood from what others have chosen to throw away.

Collectors like Mlungisi Mavimbela are creating a sustainable future through living a life that is pro-recycling and creating a livelihood from what others have chosen to throw away.

Mavimbela, 34, has been a collector since 2015. Working at the local buy-back centre situated in Tembisa, from which Mpact Recycling purchases recyclables from, he says he enjoys every bit of his job, collecting paper, long life milk and juice cartons, boxes and plastic bottles.   

Teaching the community on recycling, Mavimbela has shown the local clinic, schools, and taxi ranks to not only separate recyclables from other waste, but also how they can join the recycling movement as well.

“The community loves Mlungisi as they know that he is just a young man who is looking to earn a living through recycling. His passion shines through when he is working,” explains centre manager, Kelvin Stemela.

Mpact Recycling donated trolleys to the centre for collectors such as Mavimbela to use on a daily basis, ultimately to assist with the collection of recyclables. He is also considered a regular collector by the buy-back centre’s management.

“What makes the case of Mlungisi so extraordinary, is that despite living with a mental condition, he is every bit committed to being a recycling collector. He is at the centre at 7:40am every day, Monday to Sunday, and has been coming to the centre for the past three years without fail,” says Stemela.

According to the Paper Recycling Association of South Africa (PRASA), recycling provides income opportunities for over 100,000 people in South Africa, many of whom are entrepreneurs and small business owners reliant on sustained volumes of recycled material to earn a living.

Mpact Recycling has over 45 buy back centres in Gauteng alone which support around 1000 collectors through these centres on a daily basis. They also buy waste paper from numerous independent dealers across SA.

Mavimbela and collectors just like him play an important role and are contributor to the recycling industry each year.

“We see collectors like Mlungisi as playing an important role when it comes to recycling. They work hard in bringing in that tonnage.  We have a relationship where we support each other. And like various cogs in a machine, the system would not function at 100% if the parts did not work together. Our efforts ensure that we create a cleaner world,” says John Hunt, Managing Director at Mpact Recycling.

According to PRASA, South Africa has an overall paper recycling rate of approximately 70%, which is quite high by global standards. In 2017, 70% or 1.4 million tonnes of recoverable paper was collected, saving vitally important landfill space.  In the same year, Mpact Recycling recovered approximately 600,000 tonnes of recyclable paper and PET bottles.   

“The input of recovered paper has a positive impact in terms of climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preventing the landfilling or incineration of paper. Moreover, the recovery and recycling of paper in South Africa ensures local beneficiation of raw materials and the creation of jobs,” concludes Hunt.