Often when we think of waste, our minds merely conjure up images of dirty, smelly rubbish heaps and ugly litter along our streets. But there is much more to the topic – waste no longer needs to be a dirty word. Women are showing the way and Women’s Day is a good time to tell some of their stories.
The annual Women’s Day on 9 August celebrates, not only the historical role of women in creating a new South Africa and their vibrant contribution to the growth of our young democracy in the past 20 years, but the continuing leadership role of our women in creating a better life for all. Our country is blessed with many strong women who are making an impact across all areas of our society and economic activity. Specifically, there are those whose activities relate directly to the sustainability arena through their work in recycling and other aspects of the waste management industry.
The PET Recycling Company (PETCO) pays homage to these women who are playing a major role in waste management and recycling in South Africa.
This includes Dr Suzan Oelofse (pictured above) of the CSIR, who is also the President of the Institute of Waste Management Southern Africa (IWMSA), and who believes that ‘women are realising that working with waste does not mean you are wasting your talents, or that you need to lose your femininity. On the contrary, women are much-needed in the waste industry, due to their natural instincts to protect human health and potential to make a real difference.’
Another principal scientist at the CSIR, Dr Linda Godfrey (pictured above), says in the past 20 years she has seen the environmental and waste sector transform from its infancy in disposal to landfill, to one that now includes a growing recycling industry, with opportunities for innovative alternatives.
The many other remarkable ladies include Carmen Rayner (pictured above) from Mama She’s Waste Recyclers, a major player in the waste management industry for many years that specialises in the collection of recyclable materials such as plastic, glass, cans, paper, cardboard, cartons and lately also e-waste.
Alison Davison of the City of Cape Town’s Solid Waste Management Department, says ‘being a recycling entrepreneur takes courage’ and confirms that the city’s solid waste management department takes its responsibility to ensure a clean, healthy environment, and provide acceptable waste management services for all, very seriously.
Reneilwe Sibanyoni (pictured above), who is currently helping five cities of Tshwane landfills to register their waste businesses and guides them on how to run those businesses, and Gracia Munganga from Green Cape, are also making major contributions to the work done in our major cities.
Our entrepreneurs in waste management include among others Susanne Karcher who started EnviroSense, a company that provides solutions for integrated resource, materials and waste management for both the private and public sector, with the principles of cleaner production and sustainable consumption as the cornerstones of their activities.
Lydia Anderson-Jardine started Waste-Want, a recycling depot and buy-back facility for recyclables (glass, cans, paper, and plastic) in Cape Town in August 2010 and now employs 20 people full-time as well as casual workers. There is also Hannalie Pienaar, who tells how she and her husband started Bonke Abantu as a very small recycling business with one vehicle but grew it to one with a fleet of twelve and that branched out into other areas of waste management.
These women share a passion to do the right thing for the right reasons. Anderson-Jardine awarded some loyal staff members with shares in her company, saying ‘these women took ownership of their jobs and play a vital role in running the company. I understand that these ladies see the same vision as I do and share my passion.’
Petco salutes and celebrates all the women in the waste management industry who are making a major difference towards a more sustainable future for us all.
Among the women who make a significant difference through their daily roles in the waste management industry is also Cheri Scholtz, the CEO of the PET Recycling Company (PETCO). The organisation which was established in December 2004 with the specific objective of promoting and improving the waste management and recycling of post-consumer Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) products on behalf of all stakeholders in the PET industry in South Africa.
As one of its initiatives to understand the management of waste better, PETCO embarked on a study on the role of women in the PET beverage recycling value chain together with Coca Cola South Africa. The study’s purpose is to develop a baseline of women waste collectors (how many women are in the system and roles they are fulfilling) and a better understanding of the barriers to their participation and growth. The goal is to use the findings to shape interventions that will support women waste collectors so that they grow both the quality and quantity of PET recovered.
How can we help to instill a recycling culture in South African homes? Carmen Rayner summarises what many of her colleagues in the industry also practice: ‘It’s all about making recycling as simple and reliable as possible. It is also important to instill a sense of responsibility in children so that they grow up with recycling as part of their lifestyle. We need to get people to stop asking the question “why should I recycle” and to start asking the question “why shouldn’t I recycle”.’