Winners of the WasteAid Zero Waste Cities Challenge


Author: Admin

Published: 17 November 2021

The WasteAid Zero Waste Cities Challenge, taking place in Johannesburg, Ho Chi Minh City and Guwahati, has reached a climax with the announcement of the six winners. These grassroots circular economy innovations will be awarded €10,000 each, plus business mentoring and support to help bring their ideas to life.

Part of the WasteAid Circular Economy Network in South Africa, Vietnam and India, with funding from Huhtamaki, the Zero Waste Cities Challenge attracted over 100 innovative ideas to make cities more resourceful and liveable. 12 entrepreneurs in each city reached the shortlist, and have undergone an eight-week business mentoring programme with local industry specialists to perfect their pitches.

After being whittled down to five finalists, the two ultimate winners in each location were selected by panels of esteemed judges.

Johannesburg, South Africa

The Judges

Douw Steyn, Director of Sustainability, Plastics Federation of SA

Anele Sololo, Chairperson, National Recycling Forum

Ntokozo Majola, Executive Manager, Seda

Camilo Ramada, Senior Advisor, Business Finland


The winners in Johannesburg

Bokashi Bran

Bokashi Bran has a vision to produce the highest quality bokashi to divert food waste from landfill sites. Bokashi Bran is a mix of microbes that accelerates the composting / fermenting process, enabling all types of food waste to be returned back to the natural environment.

This Johannesburg-based enterprise is planning to create a network of entrepreneurs to increase levels of recovery and reuse of food waste, reducing reliance on landfill and preventing climate change emissions.




BoombaDotMobi collects organic waste from its paying customers and the wider community to transform it into compost. This is achieved through black soldier fly composting, vermicomposting and heat composting. The team then sells the quality compost product back to local farmers and their community.

With its prize money, Boombadotmobi is planning to prevent illegal waste dumping through education, and with the provision of an material recovery facility for sorting waste for recycling and composting from richer and poorer neighbourhoods in Johannesburg.


Guwahati, India

The Judges

Sumit Jugran, Sustainability and CSR Manager, Tetra Pak

Sanjib Bezbaroa, Vice President: Corporate EHS, ITC Ltd

Gautam Mehra, Deputy Team Leader of Circular Economy Solutions, Giz India


The winners in Guwahati

Inside Out

Guwahati is home to Dipor Bil, the only internationally protected wetland site in Assam, and home to many endangered species. The lake is under threat from the neighbouring dumpsite, and the invasive water hyacinth, a weed that is notorious for creating ecological imbalance.

The Inside Out duo have developed a way to make paper, fibreboard and crafts from water hyacinth, reducing the need for wood pulp and providing employment opportunities. They will use the award to employ 23 local people, including inskilled labourers for waste collection, and semi-skilled labourers for processing.



Shree Guru Plastics

Shree Guru Plastics collects and purchases low value contaminated plastic, which is often left out from the recycling chain and ends up in dumpsites, ​and recycles it to produce thin film that can be used as damp course in home construction. ​The demand for this product is high in Northeast India, and Guwahati is a distribution hub.

Already an established business, Shree Guru Plastics is planning to use this award to increase the capacity of its facility in Guwahati, through better use of technology. With the funding, the small business can nearly double its capacity from 11 tonnes to 19 tonnes of low value plastics per month, and will be able to provide employment for 15 more women and 7 more waste collectors.​


Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

The Judges

Sam Wood, Deputy Head, British Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City

Uyen Mai, South East Asia Sustainability Leader, Dow Chemical

Matteo Chiampo, Director of Operations, SecondMuse Singapore

Klaus Oberbauer, Programme Manager, SecondMuse Singapore


The winners in Ho Chi Minh City


VECA is a mobile app that connects scrap collectors, sellers and dealers, supporting the sale of recyclable waste with complete transparency on prices. The app is revolutionising the way informal waste pickers work and helping to divert huge amounts of waste from landfill.

They have successfully piloted their approach in Ho Chi Minh, have over 20,000 users and work with 7 waste collectors who have all increased their income through connecting to the app.  ​​

With the prize money, VECA aims to increase their users to 100,000 and waste collector network to 75 and the number of scrap yards to 75. As a result it is estimated 5.7 tonnes of recyclables per day will be collected that otherwise would have ended up at landfill. ​


University of Economics

Based in Ho Chi Minh City, the University of Economics has a goal to build the first zero waste university, through the adoption of The Three R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle) and by running campaigns to raise awareness as well as to encourage behavioural change across the community on campus.

Key activities include the set up of an materials recovery facility on campus to recover organic waste, plastics and other valuables as well as an education platform with rewards for behaviour change.


WasteAid would like to extend its gratitude to all of the judges, and to congratulate all the winners of the Zero Waste Cities Challenge!


Written by Zoë Lenkiewicz