Widows gain jobs that benefit the environment and community
In the Zimbabwean community of Senga Nehosho, residents often burn or bury trash, especially plastics, as a way of disposing it. Years of these practices have led to adverse effects on the local environment and ongoing problems with blocked drain and sewage systems. Seeking to change unsafe waste disposal as well as raise the quality of life for locals, the Midlands State University Enactus team investigated waste management alternatives and uses for discarded plastic.
The team learned that it was possible to recycle and transform plastics into a liquid similar to paraffin that could be used as fuel, floor polish or candle wax. More specifically, the team’s research determined they could effectively convert 60 kgs of waste into 60 liters of diesel fuel. By developing the technology and processes to convert plastic waste to energy or new products, the team saw that in one effort they could help this struggling community create jobs, all while diminishing harmful emissions for better overall environmental and residential health.
To accomplish this goal, the team developed a machine they dubbed the Gre-Cycler that melts all types of recyclable plastic to create economically viable products. To get the most impact from this effort, Midlands State University Enactus worked with several widows, who without their husband’s income were struggling to make ends meet, to implement the new technology and recycling venture. The women were trained on the machine and paired with five retail outlets that agreed to provide plastic waste for initial production. To further ensure success, they provided these women classes on business skills and financial management.
Thanks to the “Gre-Cycling” project, 12 disadvantaged women now have sustainable incomes transforming plastic waste. Before the effort, most of these women could not afford three meals a day or basic education for their children. After six months recycling, they had earned $2,304 from the sale of the new fuel and products. Just as important, the approximately 600 residents of Senga Nehosho now have a means of managing their trash, which benefits their land, health and local economy. Due to its success, the team is looking to expand the project to include additional waste such as paper and cans.