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Tetra Pak, Mpact Recycling, and Food & Trees for Africa collaborate for #67Minutes

In this Women’s Month in which South Africa pays special tribute to the women of the country, Mpact Recycling is more than ever encouraging women to seize the opportunities that recycling presents for them to create successful businesses and careers.

Among its many female business partners is Dudu Feleza, the small-business owner of a recycling buy-back centre based in Kempton Park. It is contracted to Mpact Recycling to supply material, both plastic and paper, since August 2000.

Having recently qualified as a teacher, she began her career in the recycling industry in the 1990s. Feleza, who at the time was unemployed and without work experience, realised she would have to do something on her own to earn an income. She identified recycling as a ready-made business opportunity where she could prove herself through hard work, without needing prior experience. “Looking for something that could sustain me in life, I started with Mpact Recycling, selling paper and cardboard to them. Recycling only needs you and your understanding of the business,” she explains.

With her increasing knowledge of the recycling industry and successes in the business, she longed to grow further by acquiring a buy-back centre. “I also wished to share my knowledge with society, and in this way to create jobs for the unemployed.” She acquired a facility in August 2000 in Kempton Park, with assistance from Mpact Recycling.

Today, with 11 employees in her business, she looks back with satisfaction at the road to success, even though it was not always easy. “Mpact Recycling was so supportive of me as I was new to the business. I would sometimes get stuck with cash flow, or collections or even key management principles for running the business - but Mpact always assisted me through the hard times. I look at any challenge today as a lesson on the road to success. It took approximately a year to establish the business and learn the ropes of recycling. Everyday there is something new, and it is a lot of fun,” says Feleza.

Mpact provided her with the necessary equipment like containers for the recyclable materials, initially paper and cardboard, and now PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles and liquid packaging cartons as well as the trolleys used by her collectors, who Feleza indicates are her “best customers”, to collect from different places where they can find recyclables. Mpact, along with Feleza’s mentor, Desmond Moloisi – Small Business Support, assisted her in finding an appropriate location for the buy-back centre in Kempton Park.

The centre’s business has grown to a point where it collects anywhere from 120 - 150 tonnes a month and Feleza says starting the business and coping with growth has not been without challenges.

Nonetheless, going into business for yourself is something she heartily recommends other women consider. “Managing this business has improved me in many ways, like dealing with challenges and managing tolerance levels when dealing with different indivuals. I have learned to work with a variety of people from different walks of life. If you start a business, make sure you are doing what you love, so as to be able to withstand the difficulties and challenges inherent in any business. Be focused and put all your efforts into your business. Trust yourself in whatever you do.”

In fact, one of the most common weaknesses of small business start-ups is that though the owner may have technical skills to run the business, their management and cash flow support skills are frequently weak. Feleza says the support she has received from Mpact Recycling has been invaluable in this regard, enabling her to focus her efforts on growing the business and create jobs within her local community.

John Hunt, MD of Mpact Recycling says the firm encourages many more women to emulate the success of Feleza. “Earlier this year we opened a new R350-million state-of-the-art polyethylene terephthalate (PET) recycling operation in Wadeville, Germiston, which will enable a greater volume of PET bottles to be recycled, thereby creating new business opportunities.”