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Category: LIFESTYLE, The Green Corner

Waste Management - recycling: A lucrative business that supports the environment
Written by Tendai Tambudze
11 June 2013

Reduce, reuse and recycle. These three words are the basic components of environmentally responsible consumer behaviour. Also called, the 3R’s, they form a part of what is known as the Waste Hierarchy.  In a world that has become increasingly conscious about all things green, waste management is no longer the government’s responsibility only.  South Africa generates about 108 million tonnes of waste annually, and of this, approximately 98 million tonnes is sent to landfills. This presents a potentially lucrative opportunity to anyone wanting to look at businesses centred on recycling. According to reports , municipalities in South Africa have recently set a target of reducing waste to landfill sites by 25% by 2016.

Before looking at the entrepreneurial opportunities that may be available in waste management, it is important to have an understanding of the basic principles of waste management. While many businesses are focussed on recycling, it is actually the last option as far as the hierarchy of waste management goes. A responsible business plan must take this into account. The 3R framework for waste management is defined by  UrbanEarth.com as follows:

REDUCE. This is the most desirable option when it comes to waste management because it involves decreasing production of waste at the source, thereby reducing the amount entering the waste stream. 


REUSE. Thisinvolves using a product again for the same or alternative purpose rather than purchasing a new product, and avoids the creation of waste.


RECYCLE . This involves extracting the valuable material from a waste item and processing this into a new product. It is the process of re-using a given product (beyond its intended use), or producing a new product from a recyclable material.


For an existing business, finding ways to implement the 3R’s around the office or in production will ultimately prove to be a cost-cutting measure.

What to consider when starting a business in waste management

The South African Landscape at a glance shows the various categories of waste management and current recycling rates.

108 million tonnes - Total waste generated

98 million tonnes- Waste landfills

59 million tonnes- General waste

48 million tonnes – Unclassified waste

1 million tonnes - Hazardous waste

10% - approximate percentage of total waste that is recycled


When starting a recycling business which makes use of something people may ordinarily discard, two main things must be taken into account.

1.    How to source the material

The entrepreneur must consider if the business will involve sourcing the products by collecting from their point of use or incentivising people to bring them to a common point. In the case the latter, the entrepreneur must carefully choose the location of potential drop-off or buy-back centres. If the business is modelled on collecting, transportation cost must be taken into account. The business is likely to involve bulk amounts and this requires adequate space.

 2.    How to process the material

Depending on the end product, the actual process of converting the material into another product is critical. It may require specialised equipment and some technical know-how. The entrepreneur must do their research and ensure that in the process of recycling they do not create more waste.

Some South African companies actively involved in the recycling business include Green Planet Recycling and Remade Recycling, which recycle everything from paper and plastics to metal, glass and wood. The Glass Recycling Company  is running a competition aimed at developing glass recycling entrepreneurs and will incentivize the best performing glass recycling businesses.  Any entrepreneurs who want to enter must currently be recycling at least 10 tons of glass per month. For more details on the competition which will start in July 2013 click here.

Further resources


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