Sept 2021 1st edition

Ofentse Rabaji is a waste whizz

Written by Kgaogelo Letsebe

Making face  masks from discarded cloth has ensured a successful business for an innovative entrepreneur.Waste has been turned into masks, thanks to Ofentse Rabaji of Green Innovationz.

Ofentse Rabaji (29) is making use of opportunities presented by the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) to keep the environment clean and provide employment for seamstresses.

Rabaji, the owner of Green Innovationz, uses discarded cloth to produce face masks, which prevents the cloth’s colourants from running into rivers and soil.

“When cloth is made, it is coloured using dye. If it’s discarded and it rains, the dye washes off and runs into soil and water. The chemicals used in dye are harmful to animals and people who consume the water. "If the dye is absorbed into the soil, it impacts its nutritional value in terms of planting,” he says.

Rabaji, who holds a Master of Science degree from North West University, says his company also ensures that cloth, which is not biodegradable, does not end up in the environment where it could be consumed by livestock and pets.

“Textile waste is not biodegradable so it could be in the environment for years after being discarded. Cows and sheep often eat small cloths, which can lead to digestion problems and the animals dying.”

Rabaji sells his face masks for R40 each.

He says the material, which he collects from seamstresses and designers in and around Potchefstroom, has enabled him to create employment for two seamstresses so far. “We sell the masks to local residents. They are made from cotton, with a spunbond filter.”

The business has been assisted with marketing by the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), which also named Rabaji one of its 2021 trailblazers.

According to the NYDA, Rabaji defied the odds and proved that entrepreneurship could be the key contributor to the country’s fight against unemployment. His passion for the environment pushed him to upcycle and make very affordable masks.

Rabaji is now growing his business by using discarded plastic, paper and cardboard and turning it into furniture.  

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