Oct 2023 1st edition

From waste picker to job creator

Written by Neo Bodumela

One man’s trash is truly another man’s treasure. This saying rings especially true for 34-year-old Thembani Xulu, the owner of Jiba’s Recycling, in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natala. Xulu started as a waste picker in 2014 and now has 16 employees in his business which services clients such as Mpact Recycling and Consol Glass. “When I started I was struggling. I had no funding… We started this business without capital.

“It was seriously difficult, but the advantage we had was that we got the [recyclable] material for free. Then afterwards, I would call the truck from Mpact to come and pick up,” he says. Despite struggling for years, Xulu persisted in his dream for the business in 2022, he came across an advert by the  Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) which changed the trajectory of his business.  Xulu

The advert was calling for applications of the Recycling Enterprise Support Programme. “In 2022, I saw an advert in a newspaper saying they are looking for recyclers and they must apply for funding so I put all my documents together and submitted them. “I was approved for R5 million funding.

I was so excited. I bought a truck with a crane because we are also collecting glass so that helps us to pick it up and load it onto the truck. We also bought a new bakkie. Now we are busy with building a structure for our recycling centre,” he said. Xulu

In her 2023/2024 budget vote speech, DFFE Minister Barbara Creecy said in the past six years, the programme has “supported 56 start-ups and emerging SMMEs and cooperatives operating within the waste sector providing more than R300 million in financial support, creating 1558 jobs and diverting over 200 000 tonnes of waste from landfills.” Xulu received his first tranche of this funding to the value of R3.3 million and he plans to employ four more people when he receives the next tranche. With the business’s financial struggles now behind him, Xulu says he is driving towards a new vision: to own a recycling processing plant.  

For more information about Recycling Enterprise Support Programme visit www.dffe.gov.za

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