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The tiny startup bringing recycling to Cape Town

June 1, 2021

Plastic, paper, metal and household waste — some 90% of trash ends up in landfills in South Africa. One recycling startup wants change that by rewarding those who separate their refuse.

An employee of recycling startup Regenize collects recyclable trash using a delivery tricycle in a Cape Town suburb.
Saving recyclables from the landfill in Cape Town suburb, Bridgetown Image: Julia Jaki/DW

Cape Town's 'recycling evangelists'

Around 7% of South Africans separate their household waste. In a country battling mass unemployment, corruption and crime, recycling is low on the priority list for most and there's no uniform system for collecting separated trash.

Chad Robertson and Nkazimlo Miti are working to promote recycling. In 2018, they founded the startup Regenize and have since been collecting more than 2 tons of recyclable trash a month in the Cape Town suburb of Bridgetown.

A resident presents a shopping voucher. Two bicycles with the Regenize are beside her.
Ursula Barends and 514 other Bridgetown households take part in the Regenize recycling schemeImage: Julia Jaki/DW

But the firm couldn't do it without the help of Bridgetown locals. To get them on board, Robertson and Miti set up a reward scheme. Residents who separate their waste and give it to Regenize receive a voucher they can then use for their shopping, for instance. Some 515 households take part in the award-winning project and the startup now employs 12 people. 

Project goal: Regenize aims to promote recycling, particularly in low-income areas. 

Budget: The company covers its outgoings by selling recyclable material, as well as through donations and prize money. Regenize recently won a SEED "Low Carbon" award for its activities. The SEED project promotes entrepreneurship for sustainable development and is funded through the German Environment Ministry's International Climate Initiative (IKI)

Duration: Regenize was founded in 2017.

A film by Julia Jaki