"Waste is not really waste," is the credo which changed the entrepreneur Reakgile Pudumo's life and together with his envisioned school recycling programme, Gugulethu Goes Green (G3) and his soon to be established business eKasi Recycling, he aims to empower township communities on how to manage their waste, reduce their carbon footprint and preserve natural resources.
"Recycling offers an unexplored wasteland of opportunities! I always wanted to run a business that will have a positive and meaningful socio-economic impact in the neighbourhood where I grew up.
"After investigating the waste situation in townships (Gugulethu, Nyanga, Philippi, Khayelitsha and Langa), I noticed how people dumped waste at illegal dumpsites and how much valuable material is thrown away. People are simply not informed."
"I am establishing a recycling company that will drive educational workshops on environmental awareness and recycling in township primary schools."
The G3-programme is still in the planning phase and Reakgile is in talks with all the relevant stakeholders. "This means it is not only a dream anymore. It is in full force and soon we'll have the programmes up and running." Scholars will be encouraged through an incentives programme to bring recyclables to the school waste depot where partner companies will measure and collect it.
Reakgile is one of 19 small business owners in the Greater Cape Town area participating in the sponsored Small Business Academy (SBA) at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB), where they reach new heights in running sustainable enterprises. The programme, with major sponsors ABSA and the Distell Foundation, empowers small business owners from low-income communities through business education and mentorship.
"The SBA programme has been precisely what I needed to take eKasi Recycling to the next level and as an entrepreneur. Being part of this initiative has been one of my proudest moments, because now I'm taught how to make informed decisions as the managing director of eKasi Recycling."
The programme has helped Reakgile to redefine his business models to make the business profitable and has helped him to set further medium and long term goals. "The community programme is a medium term goal where we plan to do street clean up's and reduce illegal waste dumping.
"Gugulethu is a difficult township to grow up in. I was a victim of a very dark history, the typical township life story. But I was able to turn my back on that by getting involved in business. I soon realized though that passion alone is not enough to run a successful company. You need to back it up with knowledge. Use the internet, read books and if you can, attend classes. And the SBA's mentorship and business education has encouraged me to run an effective and efficient business."
Reakgile has big plans for his business and for the people in his community.
"My vision and the aim for eKasi Recycling is to uplift the standard of living in townships through recycling. I want to help drive socio-economic change and development in our townships. eKasi Recycling aims to start the education at grassroots level, create a culture of recycling and give birth to more responsible citizens, thus creating cleaner township communities."
His vision includes collaborations with the City of Cape Town's municipality and big paper and recycling companies.
"We aim to have a synergy with municipalities in tackling the landfill issues that they face. With the Gugulethu Goes Green (G3) programme we aspire to cut down the amount of waste that is produced in the townships by implementing waste separation systems so that especially paper and plastic can be re-used or recycled. I want to teach children to recycle, how to be responsible citizens, facilitate training on how the community can reduce, re-use and up-cycle, and that waste is not really waste."