Sweetness Shabangu is the founder of iWaste, a recycling company that provides recycled products through environmentally friendly waste management solutions. Employment opportunities for young people have been created by encouraging them to collect and sort household waste materials in exchange for cash. The company works with more than 100 waste collectors who collect about 150 tonnes of waste, which means it is reused and doesn’t enter landfills. IWaste has created awareness in the community about recycling and the importance of reusing household waste. As a single mother of two children, Sweetness is driven by the need to provide for her family. She explains that during the Covid pandemic she saw an opportunity in waste collection as a way to help rid the environment of pollution, especially from plastic and other recyclable material. Sweetness says: “After driving around, and seeing people collecting waste, my mindset changed. I was enticed by what motivated them to wake up every day and collect waste. After researching, I realised the impact waste picking had on them, and how it helped clean up the environment. I got close to them to understand how the business works.” She realised it was possible to make money from collecting waste. Soon she was buying the waste from the collectors. Sweetness was part of the Circular Economy Incubator 2021 Cohort, an organisation that helps to develop women-founded businesses in the circular economy and provide entrepreneurial incubation and mentorship support to them.
What’s been your/the organisation’s greatest achievement in your field?
IWASTE collects used recyclable household waste material from community members in exchange for cash and creates awareness of the importance of recycling and a clean environment.
Please provide specific examples of how your/your organisation’s practices and work have a positive effect on the environment
On a monthly basis, more than 150 tonnes of waste, which would have gone to landfills, is diverted to be recycled and reused.
What are some of the biggest environmental challenges faced by South Africans today?
Waste disposal, especially in rural areas, water pollution caused by illegal dumping and climate change.
Our theme this year is Celebrating Environment Heroes. What do you believe could be the repercussions for millions of people in South Africa and the continent if we do not tackle problems exacerbated by climate change, encompassing issues like drought, floods, fires, extreme heat, biodiversity loss, and pollution of air and water?
Poverty and animal displacement; loss of life because of events such as extreme heat and floods and low agricultural productivity due to climate change.