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February 1, 2024


Lumec is involved in a community recycling initiative that is being piloted in Glenwood, Durban. The initiative aims to encourage residents and businesses to separate their waste to increase recycling rates, with a specific focus on integration and support for waste pickers. Waste picker integration has been prioritised at a national level, with formal integration guidelines developed by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment in 2020. 

Modern lifestyles, particularly in urban centres, are creating more and more waste. Management of this waste and efforts at reducing waste are becoming increasingly important as we look to the future. Reducing waste to landfill by following ‘zero waste‘ principles not only minimises environmental pollution and greenhouse gas emissions but, if done in partnership with waste pickers, can generate livelihood opportunities and promote inclusivity in the recycling industry. 

As part of efforts to inform the Glenwood community recycling initiative, a survey questionnaire was done with 163 residents and businesses in Glenwood between 1 November and 1 December 2023. Only 3 businesses completed the survey. Of the 160 household participants surveyed, 79% live in free standing houses, followed by 10% in flats/apartments and 6% live in townhouses, duplexes or simplexes.

This article outlines the key findings from the research, including recycling habits, reasons for recycling or not recycling and what is needed to improve recycling practices. 

Waste management and recycling habits

When asked about participants’ waste management practices, placing waste in black refuse bags (i.e., not recycling) is the most common method of disposal (38.4%) across the sample of respondents. The most common form of recycling is dropping recyclable materials at a recycling centre, deposit bin or garden site, followed by separating recyclables for waste pickers. 

Glass is predominantly dropped at a recycling centre/glass bank, as noted by 43% of responses, as well as cardboard, paper and tins and cans, all with approximately 30% of responses.  Cardboard is the material that is most separated for collection by waste pickers, noted by 39% of respondents, followed by cans and tins (22%), paper (20%) and plastic (19%). The most common type of waste not recycled is food waste, at 74% – this is concerning since food waste can be easily diverted to create compost and significantly reduce the burden on DSW’s waste collection efforts and the city’s landfill space. However, besides home composting, there are few other options for diverting food waste at present. In addition when it comes to e-waste (waste from electronics), 38% of respondents noted throwing these in black bags. This is important to address as this waste stream is banned from landfill in SA.

Drivers of recycling

Looking at the reasons people don’t recycle, the most common reason given was “I don’t have resources like separate bags and/or storage bins”, as well as other reasons such as not having the space to separate waste, viewing recycling efforts as inconvenient and too much of an effort to undertake, and lacking the knowledge on how and what to recycle.

The top reasons for recycling include caring about the environment, noting a responsibility to manage the waste that they generate, as well as supporting the waste pickers. 

Significantly, 69% of respondents reported a willingness to start or improve their recycling efforts, while 29% said they were already doing all that they could. 



Support required

Two frontrunners in ideas that could improve recycling are households and businesses being given different colour bags for different recyclable materials (noted by 80% of respondents) and a municipal kerbside recycling programme (chosen by 77%). Other ideas include waste pickers being represented by an organisation and having protective equipment and identification as well as more private recyclers collecting materials directly. 

In identifying what type of information would support people in improving recycling, 66% said information about where and how to recycle would be useful, 52% said information about how to support waste pickers would assist, and 44% said they’d like information about what materials can and can’t be recycled. In addition, respondents also would like tips about how to identify and separate recyclable materials and to know what impact their recycling activities are having. The Glenwood community pilot will focus on providing such information.


The Glenwood population sampled are relatively conscious about managing their waste – over 60% of respondents practise some form of recycling across the waste streams they generate, and as noted, almost 70% want to start or improve their waste management practices. While there is likely sampling bias here (i.e. those who agreed to complete the survey are more likely interested/involved in recycling efforts), the results are nonetheless significant. 

In light of the results of the survey, the Glenwood community recycling initiative can have a significant impact in addressing some key areas highlighted in the results of the research. To improve recycling in the area, we believe there are a two critical aspects that need to be addressed:

  • Households need to be encouraged and supported to take the lead in their own waste management practices. More information should be provided to them on the importance of reducing waste and recycling the waste that is generated, including more information about how to apply zero waste principles; how, what and where to recycle in Durban; and simple methods and tips for separating and storing waste.
  • More efforts need to be made to integrate waste pickers into formal recycling efforts. Ideally, waste pickers need to be represented by an organisation such as the South African Waste Pickers Association (SAWPA) and registered onto the South African Waste Picker Registration System (SAWPRS). This will allow them to be more formally represented, recognised and protected (i.e. ID cards, uniforms and protective gear), assist them to better coordinate their efforts and take part in waste picker integration projects, and to receive additional remuneration for the recyclables they collect via the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme.

Way Forward

Through this initiative, we intend to work closely with waste pickers, NGOs, the municipality, and other community groups to make sure that waste pickers are integrated into the recycling value chain. We also aim to consolidate and share information about how to reduce and reuse (as a first priority), and then, what, how and where to recycle.

We look forward to supporting efforts to improve recycling through collaboration, driving research processes and sharing insights, to make a difference in our city! If you are interested and would like to engage with us, contact us here


October 3, 2022


Lumec recently conducted a market and viability assessment for Green Corridors’ KwaMashu Beneficiation Centre (KMBC). The purpose of the study was to determine the market potential of 5 green products that have been prototyped at the KMBC and to assess the viability of each based on current alternatives in the market. 

Green Corridors is doing some amazing work at their KMBC, prototyping a range of products made from materials that are not easily or commonly recycled. Using materials such as Spanish Reed (an alien invasive plant) and spent grain from a local brewery (my personal favourite – That Brewing Co), they are making bokashi compost; they are also using non-recyclable plastic, crushed glass, street-swept sand and building waste to make green pavers.

Green Corridors have recently launched a Backabuddy campaign to raise funds to install 200 pavers at a school in KwaMashu, so please do support this great initiative! 


The ultimate goal of the study was to determine if an SMME could viably produce any/all of the 5 products. This was done by comparing the market price of current alternatives to the cost at which these products can be manufactured and sold. To determine the latter, we developed a viability model that calculates the cost to produce each product using current KMBC processes as a baseline. Since they are testing a range of processes and using almost 30 materials as inputs into the 5 products, it was a really interesting process that required a unique approach. 

Viability Model

As a starting point, the value chain of each material was mapped to understand the unique process related to this, from source through to being in a state that can be input into the production process (i.e pre-processed). The model then calculated a cost per unit (either kilogram or litre) of each material based on sourcing costs, transport costs, and pre-processing costs. Pre-processing includes manual sorting processes (labour only) as well as machine-driven processes such as shredding, granulating, chipping, and crushing (labour and electricity). 

The cost of the specific processes that each material undergoes was calculated (e.g. R1 per kilogram to manually sort and then R0,5 to crush a single material). By adding the cost of each pre-processed material that goes into each product, this yielded a material input cost per product. For example, it costs R1.5 for one material and R2 for the second material, which results in a total material input cost of R3.5 for the product.

Thereafter, the cost of manufacturing each product was calculated by determining the cost of operating each machine required to produce the product (again, both labour and electricity costs), and adding this to the total material input cost to result in a total production cost. An average cost was calculated for overheads, as well as interest repayments and depreciation on equipment and machinery depending on each product, which resulted in an average cost per unit (e.g. R5 per product is overheads, R2.5 is interest repayment and R1.5 is depreciation).

Adding these all together, and then adding a profit margin, the retail cost of each product was calculated. This was then compared with the retail price of current market alternatives to answer the question of whether or not an SMME could viably produce these products. A few products were considered viable, while a few were not – this is mainly given that alternative products on the market, using virgin materials only, are significantly cheaper. In addition, products such as polystyrene are expensive to transport and process given their light weight, and push up the cost of each product. 


This process assisted Green Corridors (a) to understand the cost of producing recyclable materials as inputs into their various products, (b), to adjust the specific mix of recyclable materials to optimise viability, and (c) to determine which products have the greatest market potential. 


From the process, the following learnings can be shared with other SMMEs in the recycling industry:

  1. It is very important to have a good understanding of the entire value chain of your business and the factors that influence the cost at each point of the value chain. This includes the cost of sourcing and transporting your materials and the cost of operating your machinery (especially labour and electricity costs). 
  2. Most recycling business models fall short due to the cost of transport, so sourcing materials as locally as possible is the key. Companies such as Ocean Plastic Technologies are looking at localised pre-processing solutions where plastic can be shredded on site to increase the viability of transporting plastic. 
  3. Developing a strong model based on a detailed value chain analysis will allow you to test the viability of different business models and approaches, which will support development of a rigorous financial model. Knowing the processes within a certain value chain where costs are too high, or which materials are pushing the price of your product out of the market, are essential in building a stronger business model.
  4. Doing some economic market research, even at a high level, will assist to build a robust business case for your business or product/s and boost your financial model. In our experience, most funders want to see a financial model that is supported by economic market research. Ultimately, if you can show that there is potential in your target market to sell X units per year and you can produce each product at Y rands, you can be fairly confident that your revenue projections are accurate and funders will be more likely to buy into your business model. 

If you are interested in finding out more, click here to contact us.