MTN Helps Youth Build Business from Waste

By Inside Biz

MTN Eswatini has harnessed the natural creativity of young people to turn waste products into valuable implements that society can use.

This has been done by implementing a youth empowerment programme in partnership with Yibutse Green Action, in order to respond to the widespread challenge of youth unemployment.

The programme also addressed the indiscriminate disposal of waste in open spaces, roadsides, rivers, and stormwater drains.

It has become normal for gutters and storm drainage in urban areas to find floating cans, nylon, water sachets, empty bottles and other waste materials discarded by humans, swept there by rain, gathering and clogging up the drain.

The organization hosted a series of workshops, exhibitions and competitions for young people on turning waste to treasure. The focus pillars of the project are single-use plastic waste and electronic waste (e-waste).

The primary focus was to awaken young people to their capacity and potential to grow and develop entrepreneurial and leadership qualities, while at the same time addressing environmental problems affecting specific local communities.

The workshops were directed towards the growing numbers of disadvantaged youths, particularly in the townships, informal settlements and the streets, who bear the brunt of social ills and economic deprivation.

David Kunene explains how “at the workshops, we were trained in the management of domestic waste, clearance of dumping sites and opportunities for turning waste into income through repurposing, recycling, upcycling. The workshops gave us a chance to exercise our creativity to benefit the environment. We learned how to turn used milk cartons into wallets and purses and old vinyl into working graffiti clocks. All the products used in the workshops were sourced locally.”

“We were all astounded at how easy it actually was to transform plastic in one form into another which could then be recycled on, and on. People do not care about where they throw their waste and will usually litter everywhere, and so we collect the waste and reuse it as raw materials for doormats, chandeliers, tumblers and other products” explained Kunene.

“Before the intervention of the MTN, some of the youths were engaging in risky behaviour like drug abuse and alcoholism because they had nothing to do,” says Machawe Ndwandwe. “We have benefited a lot from the knowledge MTN has given us as regards to converting waste into usable products,” he says.

“Sometimes when I am taking a public bus, I am always on the lookout for people who litter the environment. Once they do that, I approach them and advise them to stop their dirty habit” says Sizakele Dlamini.

A key aspect of the Turning Trash to Treasure intervention is to foster youth economic participation through facilitating and enhancing youth entrepreneurship and accelerated and sustained economic growth for the creation of sustainable youth employment.

Ntombi Zikalala narrates how “we made garden chairs and ornaments from old tyres. They are so solid, strong, rugged and dependable. They can remain in the sun or rain, they don’t break easily and can be sold to interested customers. We now know how to derive economic streams from waste, including e-waste.”

Facilitators included Vuvulane-based Artist and Environmentalist Khulekani Msweli, Environmental Health Activist Ellen Matsenjwa, Recycler Mfundo Dzimba and Nonzwakazi Dlamini.

Busisiwe Dlamini who was accompanying her 16-year-old granddaughter said she could not resist the opportunity when she heard that the programme also catered for people with disabilities.

“My granddaughter is not doing well in school hence I decided to take her for training so that she can acquire skills and start up her own business,” she said the 54-year-old resident of Kwaluseni.

Senzo Ndlangamandla from Msunduza shared how he earns a living by handling waste.

“I upcycle plastic and fomo packs and turn them into building blocks and all-purpose glue respectively,” he said.

Ndlangamandla sources his waste from OK Stores, waste skits and the local streets.

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