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Used cooking oil fuels future

Biofuel can be used in generators and planes

Mahlatse Mamaila (32) is helping to steer the country into a cleaner future.
Mahlatse Mamaila (32) is helping to steer the country into a cleaner future.
Image: vukuzenzele

A Pretoria-based start-up is making a tangible impact in SA’s green economy by transforming waste cooking oil into biofuel.

Though SA may not be as advanced as many developed countries in the green economy space, entrepreneurs such as Mahlatse Mamaila, 32, are helping to steer the country into a cleaner future.

The green economy is a system of economic activities related to the production, distribution and consumption of environmentally friendly goods and services. This results in improved wellbeing over the long term, while not exposing future generations to significant environmental risks or ecological scarcities.

Born and raised in Bolobedu in Limpopo, Mamaila is the founder of INO Biodiesel. The company collects waste cooking oil and converts it into biodiesel.

“Biodiesel is a renewable substitute for petroleum diesel. It can be used as fuel for generators, mining equipment and aeroplanes.

“I have partnered with women and youth in rural communities in Limpopo, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga to collect waste cooking oil and prevent it from flowing into rivers so that communities can access clean water,” said Mamaila.

She was inspired to start the business after reading an article about the advantages of recycling waste cooking oil. This was during the hard lockdown in 2020 when many citizens were faced with unemployment, job losses and failing businesses.

“I just wanted to contribute to job creation. At the time, I knew little to nothing about biofuel or recycling oil. I come from an accounting background,” she said.

When the lockdown was lifted, she registered her business in 2021 and went to The Innovation Hub to ask for assistance to get her business off the ground.

The Innovation Hub is the agency of the Gauteng government that promotes economic development and competitiveness through fostering innovation and entrepreneurship. It offers a number of incubation programmes in the bio-economy, smart industries and the green economy.

“I received support and training for about six months and this included practical training on how to collect waste cooking oil and produce biodiesel from it. I was also assigned mentors who groomed me,” explained Mamaila.

So far, the business has created permanent jobs for five women. It also employs five more on a part-time basis.

Mamaila’s business has received support and accolades from various organisations. In 2021, she received R85,000 grant funding from Tony Elumelu Foundation.

The business walked away with R100,000 in 2022 when it won the brand award from the Nomzamo Mbatha Lighthouse and Hollywood Foundation. It also won R45,000 after Mamaila presented her business to the panel members of the Esther’s Preparation Room (EPR) Global.

The EPR is a global player and professional networking platform created to support modern women.

In the same year, it also received funding worth R25,000 from Women’s Empowerment Network of SA, and won the 10th Gender Mainstream award at the 2022 Mail and Guardian awards held in partnership with the JSE.

She still continues to benefit from business training offered by the Small Enterprise Development Agency. – This article first appeared in GCIS’s Vuk’Uzenzele

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