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Hard work, tenacity and honour combine to make a successful entrepreneur.

Maxwell Ndlovu, the owner of Okuhle Waste Management, is a savvy entrepreneur who has grown his recycling business from a tiny operation in a side-street in Johannesburg to the establishment of two large, well-equipped buy-back centres in Jeppe Street and Denver, which collect about 300 tonnes of recyclable material each month.

Ndlovu is one of over 45 entrepreneurs to receive assistance from Mpact Recycling to start and grow their own buy-back centres. Equipment in the form of scales, trolleys, bags, bins and cages was provided by Mpact to help increase the volumes at the centres in assists.

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Mpact Recycling communication manager, Donna-Mari Noble, said they have helped establish 45 Mpact Recycling buy-back centres throughout Gauteng.

Born and schooled in KwaZulu-Natal, Ndlovu started off as a security guard in Turffontein, Johannesburg, before he established a shuttle service and, later, his own buy-back centre.

He started the Okuhle buy-back centre in 2011 with a scale, Zozo hut and two bins in a small passageway. Since then, he has grown his business to incorporate the two large sites. He also formally employs 21 people including drivers, administrative assistants, balers, sorters and cashiers.

Ndlovu attributes his success to several factors. “I work long hours to accommodate the many collectors who deliver recyclable material to my sites, often starting off at six in the morning and knocking off at 10pm.

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“Because the recycling market tends to be volatile, I try to keep my prices constant during the month, thereby easing income uncertainty for my suppliers.

“Trust and respect are an important part of the Okuhle culture, which is why I try my best to accommodate the individuals who supply me with the material. Many of them work incredibly hard to earn a living.”

Maxwell notes that between 100 and 200 collectors pass through his buy-back centres every day. “Each person specialises in specific materials, from plastic PET bottles and various grades of paper and cardboard to the more recent long-life milk and juice cartons.”

No business is without it its own set of challenges. For Ndlovu, a major challenge was the intermittent supply of electricity to his one centre. He worked closely with Mpact to resolve the issue, making use of a first-of-its-kind diesel baling machine, mostly to bale PET due to its volume and light weight.

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Ndlovu’s relationship with Mpact has allowed him to harness new opportunities. In 2017, he was awarded a contract by Pikitup to assist in the cleaning of parts of the City of Johannesburg. More recently, he was part of a trial to assist his local McDonalds outlets in sorting their recyclables for processing and ensuring general tidiness at each site.

He was also awarded PETpreneur by Petco in 2017. The Petco awards recognise individuals, organisations and companies that contribute significantly to advancing PET recycling.

Ndlovu believes it is important to set goals and work hard. “I also employ young people to inject creativity and new ideas into the business and am passionate about teaching and giving back to the community,” he said.

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