Sunday, September 27, 2020
Greening And Environment

Women shatter the glass ceiling within recycling industry

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During Women’s Month, South Africans reflects on the actions of many inspirational women who have paved the way to a better future, not only for the country in the political and economic spheres, but also across hugely varied industries. Within these industries, women have dedicated their strength, determination, creative innovation, and compassion to make a tangible difference for the future of the nation.

The recycling industry is one such industry in which women make their mark, and The Glass Recycling Company (TGRC) would like to highlight the positive difference made by three dedicated women within this often male-dominated sector. From the goggos and grandmothers who wake up well before dawn to collect recyclables, to restaurateurs or hotel managers who ensure recyclables are set aside, to those manning call centres and ensuring glass recycling banks are emptied regularly, women are often behind the scenes ensuring recycling is prioritised.

One such woman is Thandi Sibanda, who did not know anything about recycling until she joined TGRC seven years ago. Thandi quickly upskilled herself becoming an expert in this field to the point where she now handles hundreds of queries about glass recycling every month, and communicates with schools countrywide, encouraging South Africa’s future generations to play an active role in recycling and also compete in initiatives like TGRC’s Annual Schools Recycling Competition.

“You don’t have to be in front of a classroom to teach others and share your knowledge. Sharing what I know helps to make a difference in people’s lives, but beyond helping them to begin recycling glass packaging, we make a big difference to the environment,” she says. Thandi and her colleagues, who work as a close-knit team, like to encourage those around them to volunteer to clean the environment, plant trees and reduce on what they throw away, and then separate their waste and ensure it gets recycled.

Sowing the green seeds of recycling and entrepreneurial innovation

Thembeka Mqilingwa, who has been with TGRC since 2018, is another champion of recycling. She works with many glass collectors, entrepreneurs and buy-back centres to direct glass collectors to glass buyers in different areas nationally, and provides invaluable advice to entrepreneurs on the process to develop their glass recycling business.

“Being part of a company that creates value and makes a difference everywhere we engage, gives me a tremendous sense of pride that comes from helping people and making the most of ourselves,” explains Thembeka.

Thembeka believes that for young women to achieve in today’s fast-changing world they need to ensure that they have a wide range of skills rooted in academic competencies such as literacy and science, but also possess the critical soft skills that include teamwork, critical thinking, communication skills, persistence, and creativity, skills she clearly displays every day.

Sharon Libimbi has also been with TGRC for over 5 years and motivated by challenging tasks and the persistence required to overcome these challenges.

Her work in upskilling the youth around environmental protection is an inspiration to her. Sharon runs TGRC’s call centre and manages the servicing of glass recycling banks by getting in touch with all site owners to ensure glass banks are serviced timeously. In addition, she maintains the placement, relocation and removal of all glass banks across the country. She believes that, “By providing tomorrow’s leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators with the relevant information and practical exercises, you will go a long way toward changing their behaviours and attitudes towards glass recycling, today.”

Sharon’s advice to young women starting their careers and developing their passion is to: “Stay focused by enhancing your skills, love and respect yourself and you will go far in life.”

“These three amazing ladies have proven to be indispensable to the fulfillment of our role in the promotion of recycling; entrepreneurial development in the recycling sector and capacity building within this essential space,” says Shabeer Jhetam, CEO of The Glass Recycling Company.

“We salute them, and the daily role they play in conveying their passion for the environment and glass recycling to so many others, and empowering South Africans to take up this worthy behaviour for the benefit of all of us,” Jhetam concludes.

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