Recyclemania: One Man and His Green Dream By Patrick Jones
Recyclemania is tackling waste management with an enterprising solution in the Zambian capital of Lusaka where nearly all waste currently goes to landfill.
Meet Harrison Musonda, a man of grand ambitions. ‘A Zambian solution to a Zambian problem’ is his motto. Through founding the sustainable social enterprise that is Recyclemania, Harrison is tackling an embedded problem within the grass-roots of society. Waste management is the issue of concern. Compared to Sweden, where less than 1% of waste is sent to landfill, nearly all waste goes to landfill in Lusaka.
Harrison has been involved in the industry from a very early age. Once upon a time he was a scavenger who could be found at the landfill site every day of the week. To quote himself, ‘it was a hand-to-mouth’ business where personal survival was the main goal.
Role on many years to 2012, Harrison founded Recyclemania. Very much a sustainable social enterprise, Harrison identified an opportunity in waste management. Ready access to capital was not a prerequisite for growth. Instead, recyclable waste represented his currency of choice. As Harrison has frequently alluded to, not requiring vast quantities of capital to grow has been the hallmark of his success. If there was an archetypal social enterprise, Recyclemania would be close.
Acting purely as an aggregator of recycled waste, Recyclemania brokers brown paper, plastics and Chibuku cartons. At the Chunga Landfill Site, located off of the Great North Road, Harrison purchases these materials from collectors.
His experience within the grassroots of the industry has served him well. Having come from the very bottom of the supply chain, he holds an industry-wide knowledge which is second to nobody. Dealing with collectors on a daily basis, he appreciates the importance of sustainable growth. For Harrison, the growth of Recyclemania must come in unison with the development of the ‘collector’ as a professional occupation. This is where Recyclemania’s profound social impact really hits home.
Through providing an outlet for the collector’s work, Harrison has catalysed the development of a growing trade in Zambia. Alongside his business, Harrison has contributed towards an increased professionalism associated with waste collection. Through promulgating the financial potential of a mere plastic bottle, plying the trade of a collector has become socially acceptable.
Moreover, almost all collectors are women, harking from compounds nearby. With growing public consensus behind the role, many female collectors feel empowered by working towards a common purpose. This is to enhance the wider ecosystem for future generations. Also, let’s not forget that a viable income is generated, forging a positive multiplier effect for local enterprises.
Elsewhere, Harrison recognises the urgent need to reduce the quantity of waste burnt at landfill. Releasing harmful toxic emissions, such burning is undoubtedly damaging to the health of those working at the landfill site. Moreover, for the wider environment, this form of waste management serves to worsen Lusaka’s overall emissions. As a capital city, Lusaka has a leading responsibility for the environment.
Away from the landfill site, Harrison and Recyclemania are actively reducing the amount of littered waste. Through greater knowledge of the financial potential of recyclable waste, less litter will be discharged into drainage channels which align the roadside. As Zambia heads into the rainy season, this is of the utmost importance.
Localised flooding can cause severe delays to journey times whilst affecting the incomes of local enterprises. More importantly still, litter-laden irrigation channels catalyses the spread of water-borne diseases. Thereby a reduction in road-side little works towards a cleaner and healthier Lusaka.
Within the community, Harrison holds a prominent role in leading initiatives. The Manja Pamodzi (‘hands together’) project is at the forefront of these. Supported by the Zambian and National Breweries belonging to the SAB Miller Group, Recyclemania is the exclusive aggregator of PET (a form of plastic) and Chibuku cartons. Collectors will gather these materials from surrounding areas before Recyclemania purchases the items from collection hubs. Thereafter, the material is processed into bales and sold onto enterprises who manufacture the material.
This community-based initiative is striving to drastically alter people’s attitude towards waste. Further still, by developing business opportunities with community entrepreneurs, Manja Pamodzi offers a platform for innovative minds to rise from. It is a hub of creativity, serving entrepreneurs, like Harrison, who are years ahead of the industry’s current standing.
Indeed, it is clear that waste management is a nascent market of huge potential. With a population numbering millions and almost no separation of waste at source, Harrison is working to enact change across Lusaka. There is no doubt that one day the value of recycling will ring true.
And so, with Recyclemania’s outstanding role within local communities, we come back to the founder and chief. Harrison envisions an enterprise that caters for the waste management needs of major urban areas across Zambia. His drive and determination at the lower end of the supply chain, can only serve to strengthen the entire industry. One day soon, Harrison Musonda’s dream will become a reality.