Move around most central business districts in Zimbabwe and you will notice a trend. This is a trend you will also see almost anywhere, especially in urban and peri-urban areas. This is a trend of trash being piled up all over. In my experience, some of the trashiest places I have seen were in Harare. There is one particular street I recall being lined up with trash on both the road. It is a sad sight and makes you wonder how authorities let things become a norm. Anyways, our perspective on things matters. What is generally considered trash is cash if you are enterprising enough. The subject today is some more trash-to-cash business ideas.

Plastic To Creative Packaging Material

There are so many ways in which waste plastic can be transformed into creative packaging material. I recently saw a video clip of some Asian women doing that. They take various kinds of plastic waste and then process it into reed-like strands. They then use those strands to hand weave grocery bags, handbags, and the like. The commonly known Tshangani bags can be made this way too.

Growing up I remember seeing baskets made from bottle caps and waste snack plastics. Some approaches will entail some specialized processing. Whereas other approaches entail cleaning the waste and making something out of it, usually by hand. It can be straightforward to get the necessary material support for such business ventures. This is because of how much of a trend environmental social governance (ESG) has become.

Saw Dust To Briquette Charcoal

Sometime in July 2022, I profiled a Zimbabwean startup called Fuel Flip Technologies. They are a renewable energy company that focuses on the development of biomass utilisation systems, especially those to do with the conversion of waste to energy. One of the products they make is charcoal briquettes from sawdust. The process of converting sawdust to charcoal briquettes is not a very new or novel thing in the chemical and processing engineering world. Henry Ford, the American automobile maker is credited with commercialising and popularising the concept.

However, the process developed by Henry Ford is very capital intensive and very mechanical. Fuel Flip Technologies sought to develop a very efficient system, that did not have high energy input demands and was easily deployable. They are based in Mutare where sawdust is so abundant (due to the timber industry there) that you can get it for free. This is a business idea worth looking into if you are interested. Those already in the timber or carpentry industry can easily diversify into this. That way they can assume the label of no-waste companies.

Selling Rubber Waste To Manufacturers (Or Making Products)

I have seen many times that there is a lot of rubber waste in Zimbabwe. For instance, old shoes and old tyres are strewn all across the country. It is surprising how at times people do not get to think about turning that into cash. For example, those who manufacture rubber products, tyres or plastic furniture can make use of such old items. Additionally, there is the making of products from old tyres e.g. furniture, swings, boot camps, planters, and the like. There is no limit as to what you can make out of old tyres. Funnily, some tyres are not even that old that they can be refurbished. The same applies to shoes, which can even be repurposed.

Waste Water To Irrigation (Or Other Applicable Industrial Uses)

I thought to add this because I once saw this when I was growing up. I grew up in Mashava, one of the only two locations in Africa where asbestos is mined. One thing I realized was that mining operations, especially underground, lead to lots of wastewater. This is because such operations hit the water table and it has to be drained away. In Mashava they would not let this water go to waste. They would strategically redirect it by connecting it to taps that would be used to water lawns, for example. I remember the taps would be labelled that the water was unsafe for drinking.

That way, fresh safe water would not get wasted being used for watering purposes. The same approach was also being used for some of the sewer wastewater. I have always found this to be ingenious. This event reminds us of quarries as well where water would settle from mining operations. Many of such quarries exist right now in Mashava; just being idle. When you put all that together, there is money to be made from that. Wastewater from underground mining operations can be effectively used for irrigation or other applicable purposes. If we stretch it further, that wastewater can even be purified and made safe for human consumption.

These are 4 more trash-to-cash business ideas you can muse on. There are exciting prospects in this space, especially in Zimbabwe. The waste management and recycling industry are still to realize its peak potential. We need to see more people coming on board.