Turning Trash Into Cash: Turning Zimbabwean Waste into Cash
Name: Aron Vico
Company: Waverly Plastics
Location: Lot 3, Bay 5 Gleneagles Road, Willow vale, Harare
Main Products and Services
Manufacturers and suppliers of 2 litre P.E.T. Bottle, 500 ml P.E.T. Bottle, 2 litre Plastic Dairy Can (Milk Jug), 2 litre Plastic container (Polycan), 5 litre Plastic Container (Polycan), 20 litre Plastic Drum (Chigubu), a 25 litre Plastic Drum (Chigubu), HDPE polypipes, Compression Fittings, Drip Tape, Drip Tape Connections as well as HDPE Recycled Material.
The light bulb moment: Identifying a gap
Each time someone hears the term ‘Waste Pickers’; it doesn’t sound like a title of a cash spinner; and yet thousands of people in the country are making a decent living out of picking waste for Waverly Plastics. Wealthtalk Media had an opportunity to meet with the brains behind this endeavour, the founder of an enterprise that is a genuine game changer in the plastic recycling industry in Zimbabwe: Aron Vico.
Aron, a grandson of the founder of Waverley Blankets, realised that there were many tenders for jerry cans and good plastic containers in Zimbabwe. Conversely, there was poor quality plastic on the market that barely met the standards of aid organisations, chemical and beverage manufactures. Waverley Plastics was then conceived as a direct result to assist the aid organisations (NGOs) that operate in Zimbabwe as well as to meet the demand for high quality plastic containers in the local market.
The Waverley Plant produces 12 tonnes of waste pallets a day. The company uses virgin raw materials to complement the recycled raw materials made from local waste. The virgin raw plastic is sourced from Thailand, Malaysia and the USA.
Some of the plastics are purchased from local landfill (dump) sites, thereby providing a source of income for thousands of ‘waste-pickers’ in the local community. Their business model is quite specifically designed to create an environment investing in human capital, widespread training and job creation, while understanding the importance of eco-conscious, yet economically viable sustainability.
The waste picking business has become so lucrative, to the extent that there are now waste merchants who employ up to 10 waste pickers to collect waste on their behalf. They then clean and sort the waste for delivery according to Waverly specifications. These waste pickers are from all corners of the country, some come from even as far as Victoria Falls. Some of these merchants specialise in specific waste material, such as waste bottles from Dairiboard products. It is interesting to note that the most popular waste container in Zimbabwe is the Pfuko Maheu.
Once inside the recycling plant, the
plastic scrap undergoes a rigorous process. It is chopped up, washed and dried.
It is further densified, extruded (palletised) and finally bagged. These
pellets are then converted into a variety of plastic products ranging from 2
litre to 25 litre containers. Furthermore, the production process is
continually evaluated and refined in order to minimise the inevitable carbon
footprint associated with any manufacturing process. They also recognise water as a
precious natural resource and wherever possible, all water used is harvested,
filtered, recycled and re-used.
The cost of power in running the recycling and moulding plant is quite significate. Power cuts make the use of alternative energy systems imperative. Generator power is very expensive and surges production costs. “The recycling industry works on very small margins and is a very large consumer of water and electricity. Luckily at the moment we aren’t facing many power cuts, but when we do, they negatively affect our production and supply process” Aron highlighted.
Additionally, there is the high threat of cheap imports without the attendant legislation to protect the local recycling industry. “We are competing against countries that have no power cuts, lower wages, lower electricity costs as well as recycling and export incentives. This places us on a very unfair playing field and is causing our local industry to collapse” Aron lamented.
Waverley Plastics has the vision to become a leader within the recycling industry, in terms of its success as a model for environmentally responsible business sustainability and a minimum possible carbon footprint within its industry.
Word of advice to local entrepreneurs: Keep going, keep trying and never give up.