South African entrepreneur Johanna Leshabane’s company Bophelo Recycling has collected 36 tonnes of plastic scrap since it launched in 2017.
Leshabane built her business from the ground up and now has 11 full-time staff and 20 part-time waste pickers. She describes Bophelo Recycling as a ‘waste buy-back centre’ that collects recyclable PET plastic from informal settlements, households and schools in the Ermelo region. She cites a 79% increase in collection volumes since the company opened its doors.
The enterprise was made possible by a EUR 28 000 investment provided by polymer producer Safripol and the national industry body for polyethylene recycling (Petco). Leshabane says both parties helped supply roofing structures, electricity and storage containers while providing training for her and her crew. Bophelo Recycling has blossomed into a recycling hub that has made the region a cleaner, more sustainable place while stimulating job creation and economic growth.
The company has ‘really made a difference’, recently receiving the Responsible Care Initiative Award from the Chemical and Allied Industries Association. ‘I feel so blessed and very honoured,’ says Leshabane. She attributes her success to Petco, Safripol, her staff, and the community members organising and collecting the material. ‘I couldn’t have done it without all these people,’ she adds with a smile.
Leshabane admits that the coronavirus pandemic affected her plans this year but intends to grow her business more in 2021. As a next step, she wants to expand activities to cover nearby towns and rural settlements. ‘And I want to teach more people how they can start their own recycling business.’
Avashnee Chetty, Safripol sustainability manager, argues that Bophelo Recycling demonstrates that ‘real change is possible in the lives of the most vulnerable when it is driven at grassroots level, and when community members are engaged as both partners and leaders’.
Belinda Booker, Petco collections and training project manager, adds: ‘The PET recycling sector has an important role to play in contributing to the transformation of the South African economy. Few issues are more important.’
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