Kudakwashe Dhliwayo is a passionate 25 year old entrepreneur from Bulawayo who is working on our rubbish problems. Her business is called Vital Recycling and its quite methodical in its approach to environmental sustainability.
Perhaps Kuda’s interest in plastics and such came from her education. She holds an honours degree in Applied Chemistry from NUST. She says when she worked for manufacturing companies for more than a year she saw them poorly managing their waste and she decided to come up with a solution to help them do a better job. That’s how Vital Recycling was born.
She really is passionate
Hearing Kuda talk about waste particularly plastic shows you how diverse our passions are. Here is Kuda being philosophical:
Who would have thought that one of the most ingenious inventions of the 20th century would turn out to be a living nightmare of the 21st century? Being the leading environmental pollutant and contributing to greenhouse gases it’s no wonder why certain types of plastic have been banned across the globe.
The current situation in Zimbabwe, where waste is dumped in landfills mixed, (that is plastic, paper and bio waste), makes it difficult to retrieve waste for recycling. However with the right infrastructure, technology, awareness systems to inform the public, it is possible to reduce environmental pollution.
She knows the problem intimately
Kuda knows her numbers and follows closely how Zimbabwe is performing when it comes to waste management:
The amount of plastic recycles is very low, only an estimated 11% of 198 000 tonnes of plastic is recycled in Zimbabwe according to the Environmental Management Agency in November 2018.
In a research conducted by the Institute of Environmental Studies in 2014, Zimbabwe generates 1.65 million tonnes of waste per year and an estimated 12% is plastic. This is a matter that demands attention, upgrading our waste management services in Zimbabwe is imperative if we are to recover plastic waste for recycling.
What does Vital Recycling Do?
In an effort to solve this challenge Vital Recycling provides recycling programs for corporates with emphasis on waste segregation for which they provide bins, cages and recycling bags. They have partnered with organisations like Choppies and Greens Supermarkets helping them with their waste management systems.
Their service offering includes installations of cages, supply of bins and recycling bags for segregation of waste for recycling. They of course also do collection services and awareness campaigns.
After collecting the plastics
Our waste streams comprise of PET, LDPE and HDPE plastic which include plastic bottles, plastic bags, and packaging amongst other things
They supply this to other recycling companies that manufacture pellets, which are used to manufacture a variety of plastic products from packaging, pipes and bags.
What I found to be the most exciting innovation from Kuda and her Vital team is the PLASTIC BRICK. They are calling this the green slab. It is a brick made with both cement and plastic and it is compliant with civil works regulations. According to Kuda this brick is 30% cheaper than regular cement bricks but even more durable.
I know Zimbabwe has silly regulations regarding building materials which makes it quite difficult to adopt low cost building materials. I asked Kuda about this and she said so far the green slab was being used for horizontal building needs only (that is paving etc).
Funding and support
Vital Recycling received funding and support through the GiHub project which is run by SNV and funded by UNICEF. Kuda is part of the Tech Village, a community of entrepreneurs in Bulawayo and she is also part of the Cherie Blair Foundation.
I believe businesses like our biggest retail chains and wholesalers should partner this company too. They should put in investment money and help that investment grow by outsourcing their own waste management systems to Vital.
Local authorities and such should also consider applications of the green slab and related recycled building materials.
Talking to Kuda one realises a few opportunities for a mobile app (and other backend systems) to make the whole chain of waste management right up to manufacture of items such as the green slab more efficient especially when they start dealing with home waste.
I like that Kuda brought this up as something that they will consider doing in the future. This is the mature way of thinking about technology and what I found a lot of the startups I met in Bulawayo doing.
Entrepreneurs like Kuda are just going ahead solving the problem at hand manually. This will inform the tech they will need to develop if at all they will need it.
Kuda is also collaborating with other local startups for example, the pick up of waste from collection points is being done by Thumeza which is solving delivery logistics in Bulawayo.
All the best to Kuda.