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Recycling - A Way For Women To Empower Themselves

One of these women is Dudu Feleza, owner of the Kempton Park Buy-Back Centre in Spartan. Born and schooled in a rural area in the Eastern Cape, after matriculating she moved to Johannesburg to further her studies. A chance encounter with one of her old friends sparked an interest in recycling and when she ran out of money to fund her studies, she started collecting recyclables on weekends.

Years ago the Mpact branch in Midrand ran a competition for the most recyclables collected. “I didn’t think I stood a chance because I could only collect on weekends, but I did win a prize – a course in business management,” says Feleza.

On the course, a business idea began to form in Feleza’s head. “I wanted to find a place in my community where people without access to transport could bring their recyclables. I later found out that the name for the type of place I was thinking about was a buy-back centre. I investigated further and found space for my operation near the railway line in Kempton Park,” she says.

With only R600 in her pocket, Feleza was concerned about funding her operation. “Mpact Recycling assisted me with a scale. My plan was to pay the people I didn’t know well immediately and ask those who knew me to wait until the end of the week to get paid. I made sure I kept meticulous records.”

Then something happened that Feleza hadn’t anticipated. People and businesses started dropping off their recyclables at her site without expecting payment. By selling this material to Mpact Recycling, Feleza got the capital she needed to get her operation up and running.

That was in 2000. Today she employs eight people – six at her premises and two outsourced to clients – and regards herself as a businesswoman who has been empowered by the recycling industry. “I have 25 trolleys at my premises. Which allow the collectors to earn an income and support their households,” says Feleza.

Feleza’s buy back centres is one of over 40 centres that supply Mpact Recycling. Mpact small business support, Desmond Moloisi, who oversees Mpact’s dealings with buy-back centres in Gauteng, says Feleza’s buy-back centre is one of seven women-owned centres in the province to supply Mpact. “These women bring unique qualities to the industry. They are administratively strong and have an excellent grasp of marketing. They are also highly safety-conscious, which is a critical consideration in this industry.”

Feleza advises other women looking to start their own businesses not to only think of up-market opportunities. “Sometimes it’s the smaller things that provide the most incredible opportunities. Look to what you know and what you’re capable of doing, also look at opportunities that benefit society and make you proud. It cannot only be about the money, it must also be about leaving a legacy.

“I am proud to be part of an industry that makes a difference by providing work for unemployed people and preserving our environment by reducing waste to landfill. Every day I am amazed by how recycled material can be transformed into so many different products. I’m also grateful that so many people can make a living and support their families through recycling.”