Bulawayo initiative empowers waste pickers

A Bulawayo-based social enterprise is helping women and youths in the waste-picking industry add value to their products to increase their earnings.

A representative from the organisation, Wezesha, Sinqobile Ndlovu, said they work mostly with women, youths, and People with Disability (PWDs) in waste picking and producing value-added products from waste.

“We have a network of about 80 women, youths, and PWDs. Some of the waste pickers sell the waste to recycling companies while others sell within the cooperative where we process the varied recyclable waste into value-added products,” said Ndlovu.

“For example, we buy PET containers of opaque beer (Super) and process them into sweeping brooms. Part of our objectives is to add value to our products so that they increase in value and we can rake in more money. The PET bottle, in its raw form, would be sold at 7 cents per kilogram but after processing it, we can sell it for 25 cents for 30 units.”

Ndlovu said the organisation realised that women were usually placed at the bottom of the value chain where they do menial jobs with limited income.

“We realised and appreciated that the waste-picking industry, especially in the higher levels of the value chain, is dominated by men. Women are mostly found in the lower levels where they make little income. This motivated us to hand-hold the women and graduate them into higher parts of the chain,” she said.

“Through the research that we do, we managed to discover some machinery that we can manufacture on our own and customize to suit our operating environment. Instead of having electric-powered machines, we managed to make manual ones. We also have some that have been tailored to be user-friendly for PWDs to help improve and maximize the production of our value-added products.”

A youth, Beatrice Ndlovu, from Cowdray Park, who is a member of the organisation, said the work has enabled her to make sufficient income that helps her to get by.

“At first, I was embarrassed by the work that I was doing. Some of my age mates would look down on me because I was collecting waste, but now I have learned so much about the industry, and I can make a living out of it,” she said.

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