Women in recycling: The journey of Johanna Malivhusa – A glass recycling entrepreneur

The recycling sector is among the more traditionally male-dominated industries but over the years we have seen women enter the sector and grow into managerial roles. One such woman is Limpopo-born Johanna Malivhusa, who serves as a Cullet Manager at Zama Zama Recycling, a Buy-Back centre in Marshalltown, Johannesburg. Since joining Zama Zama in 2008, her journey has been one of growth and evolution. She has woven her story into the tapestry of Zama Zama, an organisation that has transformed her life.

A Purposeful Path: The Evolution of a Cullet Manager

In her role as a Cullet Manager, she oversees the collection, cleaning, and sorting of cullet before it’s sold to glass manufacturers. Johanna is also a driving force behind maintaining and boosting glass collections, a role that has her engaging with clients and tirelessly spreading the message of Zama Zama’s impact.

A Partnership for Progress

Johanna says glass collection has become more competitive over the years as more people have taken an interest in opportunities that are available in the circular economy. According to The Glass Recycling Company (TGRC), the only Producer Responsibility Organisation for glass packaging in the country, there are over 50 000 active glass collectors in South Africa. They collect from local community members, restaurants, bars and taverns amongst others. Collectors are typically unemployed and rely on the money they earn from selling glass to Buy-Back centres.

TGRC has played a pivotal role in the development and maintenance of Buy-Back centres across South Africa. The Organisation assists with the provision of skip bins, scales, collection bags, wheelie bins, gloves, goggles, and business advice on how to run a successful Buy-Back centre. In addition, four thousand glass banks are placed across the country to aid the collection of glass. “We’ve been able to lean on TGRC for many years. Their support has been instrumental to the growth and longevity of our Buy-Back centre,” says Johanna.

From Inspiration to Empowerment: Breaking Barriers in Recycling

The seeds of Johanna’s career in recycling were planted by her desire to empower unemployed youth who often misunderstood the potential within the industry. Many perceive recycling as hard labour, but Johanna’s unwavering belief in its transformative power has been her guiding light. She has faced challenges head-on, particularly in the face of a changing landscape where more individuals have joined the recycling movement. The appeal of not just contributing to a cleaner environment but also earning extra income has resonated with many, illustrating that recycling is a win-win endeavour.

A Beacon of Wisdom for Aspiring Women in Recycling

Johanna’s advice to women seeking a career in recycling is simple yet profound: remain motivated. In a world where misconceptions linger, she champions the transformative potential of recycling as a business. Her journey showcases that recycling transcends stereotypes, carrying a unique promise for those willing to embrace it. As Johanna continues to illuminate her community and the world, her story serves as a beacon of hope for those who dare to dream, persevere, and uplift others along the way.