How buy-back centres are building a foundation for recycling

Our government recognises that recycling can help to sustain the livelihoods of poorer communities. In 1998, the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism launched a campaign to encourage entrepreneurs to open their own buy-back centres.

Buy-back centres are established as multi-recycling centres, for the buying, sorting and resale of various plastics materials and other recyclables such as paper, cans and glass or bottles.

Individual waste reclaimers sell their recyclable waste to buy-back centres to earn an income. There is a close interaction between the buy-back centres and the collectors, and most visit the buy-back centres on a daily basis. At these centres, these entrepreneurs are mostly paid on an ad hoc basis for delivering certain types and grades of recyclables.

The buy-back centres are privately owned facilities where mostly waste from households and businesses termed post-consumer waste is bought and temporarily stored. Such facilities support subsistence waste collectors and create jobs.

Buy-back centres can be found in all major centres across the country. They are mainly located in low-income and densely populated areas or in commercial or industrial zones. These centres act as satellite stations for the larger recycling centres because they need to be where the collectors are.  

They are critical to ensuring that more recyclables can be reclaimed in a scalable manner. This not only benefits individuals but also helps to protect the environment. Recycling companies could never collect all of the recyclables on their own and rely on buy-back centres, much like other suppliers of waste, to the business to supply them with additional waste.

Zoning regulations, affordable letting space and the industrial area’s nearness to the commercial zone of the area are the main motivations for the site selections. The locations are regarded by all stakeholders to be ideal.

These businesses are often directly supported by a recycling company – like Mpact Recycling - that may offer training, assistance with setup once the business is operating on a suitable location and infrastructure such as bags, containers, etc to enable reclaimers to collect waste for them. Most buy-back centres accept all types of waste that is sorted on the premises and then sold to the companies like Mpact Recycling.

The establishment of a buy-back centre requires input from provincial and national government, and local municipalities all play a significant role. This includes identifying available land, conducting environmental impact assessments and granting operating permits.

It is important to ensure that sufficient sources of recycling materials are created for buy-back centres. These sources will contribute directly in terms of volume recoveries on a monthly basis.

Aside from its own operations in major centres in South Africa, Mpact Recycling supports buy-back centres, where collectors deliver waste paper for payment, thus promoting local beneficiation of raw materials. Mpact Recycling also buys additional material from independent dealers throughout the country. In addition, the development of small enterprises has been supported to facilitate the group’s collection strategies.

Mpact Recycling is able to provide an end market for the waste collected, even in times of over-supply. This ensures that local recycling entrepreneurs are able to continue trading and grow their businesses. Mpact’s storage facilities, such as the Mpact Springs Central Distribution Centre in Gauteng, are all well equipped to process large amounts of waste with optimum handling and the transportation of waste material.

Through its commitment to living the circular economy, Mpact Recycling is able to uplift local communities and empower them to create a cleaner environment.

Recycling is generally considered as one of the less dynamic segments of our country’s informal economy. Waste recycling can, however, offer development opportunities for these communities.

If you’re looking for more information or support and advice to open your own buy-back centre, or to become part of Mpact’s supplier database, visit

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