A unique enterprise development programme is set to be a boost for small, black-owned recycling businesses, create jobs and improve the long-term sustainability of the recycling value chain in South Africa.The programme, which focuses on recycling buy-back centres, is being implemented by one of South Africa’s most enduring producer responsibility organisations, PETCO, and its funding partners. The programme will provide structured training and mentorship as well as infrastructural, equipment and funding support to enable entrepreneurs to grow their post-consumer waste collection volumes and run their businesses more effectively. PETCO CEO Cheri Scholtz said the initial programme was being introduced in KwaZulu-Natal in early 2023, with a view to rolling it out across South Africa as more funding partners come on board. “PETCO is very serious about creating a sustainable recycling value chain, with a plan which looks ahead as far as five years,” said Scholtz. She said the newly launched enterprise development programme would make a positive contribution towards the transformation of the waste collection and recycling sector and the inclusion of small to medium enterprises in the waste value chain. “The small business cannot be seen in isolation. It is essential to ensuring a reliable supply of quality feedstock to our recycling partners and must be supported as a key element of our overarching socio-economic and environmental strategy,” explained Scholtz. Sue Jurgens, operations manager for implementing partner Enterprise Room, said nine businesses who met the pre-qualifying criterion of producing at least 20 tonnes of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) per month, had been selected following a rigorous application and assessment process.
“The business assessment reviews the SME’s level of business regulatory compliance and the full spectrum of business activities in the creation of its product and service — from receiving materials through to delivery to market, and everything in between,” explained Jurgens.“Then we focus on supporting and guiding the business development process, which covers financial management, marketing, operational efficiencies, cost effectiveness, staff management, identifying opportunities for new business, and plans for job creation as well as maintaining regulatory compliance,” she said. She said the consolidation of all these elements created opportunities for the small business to continue its growth and obtain future funding to expand further – even after the programme had ended. “Systemic change takes time which is why PETCOs overall strategy is realistic. There is a tendency in South Africa for corporates to put businesses on programmes in the hope of achieving results very quickly. The businesses we work with will experience change within the programme but must remain sustainable thereafter. Long-term vision and support to drive strategic and behavioural change is required.” Jurgens said expressions of interest from potential funding partners in other provinces would be welcomed and that such investment support would also earn the funder B-BBEE scorecard points on their economic development spend. “We have already had some exciting communications from organisations wanting to participate,” she added.