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Recycling business starts‘without capital’

State ’s R5m funding changes fortunes of entrepreneur

Thembani Xulu, the owner of Jiba’s Recycling, in Nkandla, now has 16 employees.
Thembani Xulu, the owner of Jiba’s Recycling, in Nkandla, now has 16 employees.
Image: vukuzenzele

One man’s trash is truly another man’s treasure.

This saying rings especially true for 34-year-old Thembani Xulu, the owner of Jiba’s Recycling, in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal. Xulu started as a waste picker in 2014 and now has 16 employees in his business which services clients such as Mpact Recycling and Consol Glass.

“When I started I was struggling. I had no funding… We started this business without capital. It was seriously difficult, but the advantage we had was that we got the [recyclable] material for free. Then afterwards, I would call the truck from Mpact to come and pick up,” he says.

Despite struggling for years, Xulu persisted in his dream for the business to flourish. Then in 2022, he came across an advert by the department of forestry, fisheries and environment which changed the trajectory of his business.  

The advert was calling for applications of the Recycling Enterprise Support Programme.

“In 2022, I saw an advert in a newspaper saying they are looking for recyclers and they must apply for funding, so I put all my documents together and submitted them. I was approved for R5m funding.

“I was so excited. I bought a truck with a crane because we are also collecting glass, so that helps us to pick it up and load it onto the truck. We also bought a new bakkie. Now we are busy with building a structure for our recycling centre,” he said. 

In her 2023/2024 budget vote speech, minister Barbara Creecy said in the past six years, the programme has “supported 56 start-ups and emerging SMMEs and cooperatives operating within the waste sector, providing more than R300m in financial support, creating 1,558 jobs and diverting over 200,000 tonnes of waste from landfills”.

Xulu received his first tranche of this funding to the value of R3.3m and he plans to employ four more people when he receives the next tranche. With the business’s financial struggles now behind him, Xulu says he is driving towards a new vision: to own a recycling processing plant. – This article first appeared in GCIS's Vuk'Uzenzele

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