Recycling is not only a billion-dollar industry, but also works to save the environment. Everybody wins in the recycling business. People are able to get rid of their waste, hassle-free; business owners acquires raw material at low cost; retailers have more products to sell consumers; and the earth is spared the damage from some of the waste products. Zimbabwe, like any other country, produces tonnes of waste product, which entrepreneurs can take advantage of, to build and grow a business. There are many lucrative ideas for recycling, but here we’re going to focus on scrap metal recycling, food waste recycling and paper recycling.

1.      Scrap metal recycling

This is perhaps the most profitable in the recycling industry. Metal is one of the few products that can be made and re-made repeatedly without losing its purity. Of course not all metals are equal, with some metals being more valuable in the recycling industry.  Scrap metal is classified as either ferrous, or non-ferrous. The easiest way to determine the nature of the metal is by using a magnet. If the metal sticks to the magnet, it’s ferrous, if it doesn’t, it’s non-ferrous. Common metals like steel or iron are ferrous, whilst copper, aluminium, brass and stainless steel are non-ferrous. Non-ferrous metals are usually more valuable in the recycling industry because of the ability of the metal to retain its purity even when manufactured.

Zimbabwe’s mining industry requires a great deal of materials that can be made from scrap metal. According to the Herald, we are currently importing a significant amount of these materials, and yet locals are exporting scrap metal to South Africa. This scrap could be collected and manufactured instead, to be used as mill balls in gold mining; iron bars for local and export markets; plough wheels for the agricultural industry, and so much more. Scrap metal is not difficult to find, with Zimbabweans often dumping their junk in open spaces. It’s also possible to collect the metal from people’s homes, at industrial sites and junk yards. Capitalizing on people’s inability to recognise the value of their scrap metal could result in a very lucrative business.

2.      Food waste recycling

Alarming amounts of food are thrown away every day in urban or peri-urban Zimbabwe, and yet food waste can be recycled, and the product sold very profitably. Food waste can be turned into animal feed. An entrepreneur could collect fruits and vegetables that are no longer fresh, therefore hard to sell, from food markets like Mbare Musika and from supermarkets. This waste can be sold to farmers and turned into animal feed. Often this food waste is thrown away, and only requires you to collect it. Alternatively, you may be charged or offer to pay a very small fee for the waste. Other places to collect food waste include restaurants, hotels, boarding schools, and boarding houses. These places throw away large bins of food on a daily basis.

Food waste could also be turned into organic fertilizer and biogas. Food waste can be decomposed using an anaerobic digester, where waste is treated without oxygen to obtain biogas, and the rest, which remains solid matter, becomes fertilizer. Biogas is very useful for cooking in Zimbabwe, especially in rural areas, or areas with limited access to electricity. Organic fertilizer can be sold to market gardeners, flower farmers, or hobbyist gardeners, to mention only a few.

3.      Paper recycling

This is one of the oldest models for recycling, with the paper recycling business having been established a long time ago. Moreover, paper is in high demand, including recycled paper. Recycled paper can be used to make tissue products, office paper, books, newspapers and other various products we often use without realizing they’re made from recycled paper. Amazingly, almost any kind of paper can be recycled, which means you could acquire your raw material from almost anywhere. You may not need to set up a plant for recycling, but rather collect the paper and sell to manufacturers or recyclers at a profit.

End note

Earning an income out of trash might not be typically the first business idea that people think of, but it can be an extremely lucrative business, especially in Zimbabwe, where waste disposal is problematic. The aforementioned ideas are not the only profitable ideas for recycling, but just the tip of the ice-berg. Researching and closely observing what Zimbabweans do with waste matter could help you come up with a brilliant business idea and plan.