The global recycling industry was worth approximately US$60 billion in 2021. The recycling industry is broad and carries vast business prospects. Recycling entails various types of materials such as paper, plastics, glass, metals, organic matter, consumer electronics, and several more. So much money can be made from the recycling industry. Recycling is also essential to mitigating climate change and promoting environmental sustainability. The recycling industry is also beneficial in employment creation. Recycling comprises a wide range of focuses e.g. collection and processing, amongst others. In this article I want us to explore the recycling business in Zimbabwe.

Bigger Problems, Bigger Opportunities

In Zimbabwe, we already have serious problems when it comes to waste management. Generally, there is a poor waste management culture in Zimbabwe. The collection itself is in shambles and so is disposal, with waste piling up all over the country. One of the biggest problems in Zimbabwe is plastic waste. As much as some recycling companies are tackling this, they are overwhelmed. They mostly have limited capacity and tech that is not advanced enough. When you look at it all you realize the opportunities start right from disposal and collection. Coming up with innovations in disposal, collection, processing, and remanufacturing, amongst others is big money.

Value Addition Locally Is Needed

Most of the recycling initiatives in Zimbabwe entail the collection of waste and exporting it. A good example is that of scrap metal; most of it is exported particularly to South Africa. Ironically once processed there we tend to import the end products of our waste. Another example is that of cans; the farthest thing done locally is crushing them. Once that is done they are exported again to destinations like South Africa. This model sells us short as a country and must be changed.

Returns From Exports Are More Alluring

I understand that waste gets exported because prospects could be higher. As in, those who collect and sell waste make more money via exporting than selling locally. This exposes a fundamental problem that must be dealt with. We need to have attractive prospects locally so that people will shift from exporting. Practical scenario: if one exports a truck full of crushed cans, they can net over US$6000. Yet that same load will not net anywhere near that locally. So for local value addition to become preferable, the returns should be attractive. That will take a multi-sectoral collaboration to make this happen; the government is actively involved as well.

Funding And Support Systems

One of the biggest impediments to the recycling industry in Zimbabwe is the lack of funding. I know someone here in Zimbabwe who is looking for US$13.5 million. This money is needed, in part for the establishment of a recycling business. It has been several months now and we are still searching high and low for that funding. The harsh reality is that recycling at a substantial level requires lots of capital. The machinery needed is typically costly and that is what drives up capital needs. It would be great if we could see more investors and financiers targeting recycling initiatives.

There is also a need for support systems from several entities. In recycling, some of the central stakeholders are local authorities, regulatory authorities, manufacturers, and businesses. If these entities come together they can streamline recycling activities thus making them cheaper and smoother. It is commendable to see that Environmental Management Agency (EMA) has initiatives tailored for recycling. Local authorities are also involved but more has to be done. Side note: when starting a recycling business you must engage EMA and your respective city council. Anyways, manufacturers and businesses are pivotal to the collection of waste, amongst other things.

There is no excuse good enough for not getting started though. Start from where you are. Kudakwashe Dhliwayo, a young lady now aged 28, established her own recycling business called Vital Recycling a couple of years ago. This is a good example to inspire you that despite how young you are you can do this. You can check Vital Recycling’s Facebook page here. Most of the waste in Zimbabwe piles up somewhere or goes to landfills; this is money just being thrown away. A few days ago a buddy of mine, currently in SA, contacted me asking what they have to do to start a paper recycling business in Zimbabwe. This refreshes me because I desire to see more recycling businesses emerging in Zimbabwe. As a nation, we have barely scratched the surface of the recycling industry.