Being sent from pillar to post by Bloemfontein government officials and some private companies, has made it impossible for small-scale recyclers, Shimi Pule Moganoe and Nahano Mokone, to grow. Recycling is not only good for the environment, but it helps them make money. However, without a place to store collected recyclable material, the pair are unable to earn more cash and achieve their goal of creating jobs.
They have resorted to placing bags of various sizes, which are filled with bottles and boxes, in an open space in a residential park. “We don’t have space to put these bags,” Moganoe said. “Space is our number one challenge. As you can see, this is a recreational park where kids play, and these bags attract mice.” A suitable space to just store the bags in Bloemanda would enable them to collect a huge number of bags.
But it has not been easy. “I’ve written emails. I’ve been to many places without success, including the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure, and they tell me about rental places,” Moganoe continued. “I don’t have the money to rent space. They say they’ll find me a place, but when they do, it’s rentals. We’re talking about R15,000. These bags need to be stored where they are not exposed to a lot of direct rain and sunlight. When they are, the bags rip and tear.”
Moganoe points to an industrial site where there are empty buildings waiting for tenants. For a short period, they used to store their materials in one of the buildings. “We had to vacate and take out materials. That space was owned by a man from Lesotho, but because one of the businessmen was cleaning that space, we had to go. There is space next to SAB (South African Breweries). It’s owned by them, but when you approach them, they’ll say all sorts of things. And at the end they are not going to use that space,” Moganoe lamented.
He says they do not want to be a burden on the government. “All we’re asking for is space where we can store our materials. That is all. We don’t want electricity, water and security.” Also with space, they can take the bottles directly to bottle giant Consol, eliminating scrap yards. “Consol only takes in tons. They can say ‘give us 32 tons, 32 tons is a truck. It costs a lot of money to hire that truck,” Moganoe said.
The Uniform colour of unmixed bottles per kilogram is 45c. A mixture of bottles is 35c, while a kilogram of boxes is R1. Moganoe hires a small van that can transport between 100 and 200 bags, which earns them about R1000. Moganoe’s collection methods are simple: every Wednesday he collects on the streets, while taverns and regular people call him. “I don’t gain much, but because I love it and I am able to put food on the table and provide for my family, I take that risk,” said Moganoe, who also does maintenance work.
“The recycling we’re doing is good enough to put food on the table, so I don’t understand when people say they have no jobs and money. This thing is a job.” It is exactly for that reason that Moganoe sees the bigger picture. “This is a major job creator. I can easily collect enough bottles. With space, I can do more. I can easily print pamphlets telling people not to throw bottles away,” he said. “My dream and my wish is to work with people who can say they have shares in my business. When you have shares, you have that feeling that you own something.”