Huhtamaki Wastepreneur Challenge launches in Diepsloot, Johannesburg.


Author: Michelle Wilson

Published: 19 April 2023

  • Huhtamaki Waste Entrepreneurial Challenge Fund commenced in the township of Diepsloot on 30 March 2023.
  • The Challenge fund is designed to support up to 50 informal waste collectors over 2 years to develop their skills and capacity in recycling.
  • It will involve a tailored 12-week holistic training course which will culminate in an opportunity for candidates to pitch for seed funding to grow their business.

Following on from Huhtamaki’s initial investment in the Circular Economy Network, a leading global sustainable packaging producer is partnering with WasteAid once again to provide investment in South Africa to support young people who are trying to start up in the waste management industry. Over 90% of recycled waste collected in South Africa is carried out by the informal sector. Many of these collectors are low-income earners, living on less than 50 Rand a day (GBP £2.50). WasteAid, a UK based International NGO, has been pioneering approaches in South Africa, Egypt and The Gambia to support young waste collectors to move up the value chain to enable them to increase the income they make from recycling.

The Wastepreneur Challenge is taking place in Diepsloot a township north east of Johannesburg with a population of more than 850,000. After a local advertising campaign and screening process, 39 waste collectors applied and were interviewed and 20 waste collectors have been selected to take part in this first cohort. The candidates come from a wide variety of backgrounds, both female and male, old and young, some have been working in waste for many years but have not received any financial or skills support. All of them are keen to learn more about how to build their businesses.

One of the unique aspects of the training is the amazing team that WasteAid has brought together to deliver the programme. The Wot-If? Trust, led by Gail Styger, has been working with young people in Diepsloot for many years, running a business centre where entrepreneurs can access training and business support as well as IT skills. WasteAid has also brought in core trainers that have a lived experience of working in and building successful businesses within the waste management industry. Harriet Matjila, one of the lead trainers runs an all-female run Buy-Back centre in Johannesburg. Mandlenkosi Nkosi, who is also leading a number of sessions, started out as a waste collector and now runs two thriving plastics recycling businesses in South Africa. Ursula Lebuso will be working alongside Harriet and Mandlenkosi – she is a financial advisor and holds an impressive portfolio of trainings for high performing companies across South Africa. The modules include a range of topics from getting to understand the world of waste and also on personal and business finance.

Michelle Wilson, Director of Programmes at WasteAid says: “We are really excited to continue our partnership with Huhtamaki in South Africa and are proud to be able to support and track the progress of these motivated Wastepreneurs. Through this course we want to show there is pride in working on the waste value chain. Through the course, we see a real opportunity for young and old to build viable livelihoods through recycling.”

“We at Huhtamaki believe that waste is very valuable secondary material. To make this a reality, incentivization, innovation, partnerships and changes in consumer behaviour all play a role. It is very important to support and encourage young Wastepreneurs by showing them the limitless possibilities that the circular economy can offer. In our view, collaboration can make a real difference and that’s why we are delighted with our partnership with WasteAid.” says Shane Van der Nest, General Manager at Huhtamaki South Africa Fibre Foodservice operation.

The training started on 30th March 2023 and will complete on 22nd June 2023, followed by a month of tailored business mentorship. The challenge will culminate in a pitching event where the Wastepreneurs can pitch for seed funding to develop their business idea.