Women in waste

When you sit and think about it, waste is a problem of staggering scale. But instead of getting overwhelmed or giving up, these women are playing their part in cleaning up their communities.

The problem with waste tyres is not limited to South Africa. It affects communities worldwide. The presence of waste is an indication of overconsumption and materials not being used efficiently. The capacity of the natural environment to absorb and process these materials is also under stress. The main problem is the sheer volume of waste being produced and how we deal with it. Women from various parts of South Africa are playing their part in the circular economy within the waste tyre industry.

Phumla Hlathuka, who is 28 years old, is one of the micro collectors in Soweto who has found an opportunity from waste tyres. Since becoming a micro collector Phumla and her colleagues have registered their co-operative, Great Opportunity. The co-operative collects mainly in the Johannesburg CBD, Germiston and Freedom Park areas. The group has seven members – four women and three men – and they hope to one day expand. Before becoming a micro collector Phumla had no source of income and she has found that collecting waste is not only putting food on the table but is also cleaning the environment.

Johanna Baleng is a REDISA depot manager in Mossel Bay. The depot stockpiles waste tyres of different kinds and sizes. As depot manager Johanna has to ensure that stock is packed according to the tyre categories and according to the waste tyre regulations. Her core tasks include managing the drop-off of collected waste tyres and ensuring that waste tyres are sent to recyclers for remediation.

Instead of creating products from new materials, Rea Ngwane established the KF Brand – a fashion house that creates high-end, innovative, green apparel from excess tyre material. KF Brand has opted to use waste rubber to create fashionable, ready-to-use bags for women and men.

These women are a testament to the various opportunities available in using waste, and ultimately closing the loop to ensure that waste tyres specifically are reused and repurposed into products of value.