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The Zondi Buy-Back Centre wins on all levels: it helps people earn a living; it helps to keep the environment clean; it encourages recycling; and now it has won the UNEP 2010 Seed award.
DOREEN Mofokeng, a 52-year-old mother of two, was unemployed for a very long time. But thanks to the Zondi Buy-back Centre, she is now able to feed her children using the salary she gets for working at the centre.


Happy to have a job: Doreen MofokengHappy to have a job: Doreen MofokengMofokeng, a resident of Zondi in Soweto, is a safety and occupational representative, one of 12 permanent employees at the centre. She started working here when it opened seven years ago and she says she is happy with her job.

“The level of poverty among Zondi residents has been lowered because people bring recyclable things in order to be able to feed their families,” she says. “To some people this is their daily job. The centre encourages a clean environment in which people live in and a clean community as well.”

The Zondi Buy-back Centre is a community-based multi-recycling centre that buys recyclable waste such as paper, plastic, cans and glass from people and then sells it on to recycling companies like Collect-a-Can. This is a direct cash payment; people clean the waste and get paid according to the volume they bring in.

A City of Johannesburg initiative, the centre has created scores of jobs, particularly for Zondi residents. On average, 150 people visit it daily to deposit loads of recyclable waste. There is also an educational programme targeting young people, who are taught about recycling.

The centre’s customers are listed on a database and they receive gloves, trolleys and warm clothes to make their collection jobs easier.


A Zondi resident wheels in recyclable materialA Zondi resident wheels in recyclable materialIt was for achievements like this that the centre was selected as one of the best on an international level. It received the 2010 Seed award – the awards are hosted by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), which co-ordinates and promotes environmental activities around the world.

Seed is a global partnership that supports entrepreneurs in the field of sustainable development. It supports social and environmental entrepreneurs who contribute to local financial growth.

The prize for the Zondi Buy-back Centre is a package of tailored support services and a financial contribution. This is aimed at empowering it to keep up the good work while creating job for others.

“It is a privilege to win this award because now we are recognised at an international level and we also have an opportunity to network with other international organisations,” says Simphiwe Motsele, the centre manager. “From here, our future plans are to grow, get more equipment and establish other centres around Soweto.”

Collect-a-Can encouraged the centre to enter the awards, and helped to complete the application.

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