HOW DO YOU DO! We’re pleased to introduce our new UpLift interns in KwaZulu-Natal whose lives could soon be radically improved! The UpLift programme is focused on creating entrepreneurial opportunities for youth. It lays down key stepping stones to support aspiring young entrepreneurs to plot a path to small business success.
Nelson Dumakude is the first graduate of the Wastepreneur Programme, launched in 2022 in partnership with The Litterboom Project, CHEP and Mr Price Home. Since graduating, Nelson has gained full-time employment in the waste upcycling industry. He entered into a joint venture with The Litterboom Project in a pilot project for Mr Price Home; and has since been offered a position as a Director at Sustainable Product Solutions, processing post-industrial waste into products.
“The Wastepreneur Programme has changed my life in all kinds of ways. It has given me financial freedom. It has given me more ideas. It has given me life! If I didn’t do this, I think I would still be sitting at home without a job,” says 34-year-old Nelson.
Nelson is not alone in his struggle to find employment. Over 40% of South Africans aged 25 to 34 are not in work.* Karen Wells, Head of Mr Price Foundation, said youth unemployment is a crisis in South Africa. “We need to think differently and respond innovatively to address this crisis. UpLift’s response is to create and support entrepreneurs and agripreneurs – unlocking potential in youth and unlocking economic growth for South Africa.”
Nelson’s journey with recycling began in April 2022. He was approached by The Litterboom Project to take part in beach clean-up activities after severe flooding struck KwaZulu-Natal. Nelson was sitting at home in Waterloo (near Umdloti), unemployed and idle. “The April floods hit Umdloti so hard. We started clearing the plastic waste for R200 a day. I put all my energy into my work. We did that for two months and from there the ocean was clean and the initiative ended. We went back to our lives,” he recalls.
A few months later, impressed with Nelson’s work ethic, The Litterboom Project offered Nelson a permanent job as a River Warden in Ohlanga River. River Wardens take care of the litterbooms that prevent floating litter from spilling into the ocean.
“I was a River Warden for about six months. I was very passionate about doing my job,” recalls Nelson.
Extracting the waste from the environment is just the first step. The next, is finding a purpose for the waste. Supported by UpLift, Nelson enrolled in an innovative four-month plastic waste design course, facilitated by The Maker Space and The Litterboom Project. This made a radical impact on Nelson’s life. With access to training, technology and equipment, Nelson put his theory into practice, reusing plastic waste to produce a factory-quality garden stake for Mr Price Home’s Sustainable Style Collection.
This took Nelson’s recycling journey full circle. He is hands-on at every link in the recycling chain: from extracting waste from the environment, to sorting, cleaning, product design, manufacturing and supplying a major homeware retailer.
“This is the first recycled plastic planter stake in Mr Price Home,” Nelson says proudly.
After training, Nelson took up a full-time position at Sustainable Product Solutions, where he reuses plastic to manufacture products like brightly-coloured building blocks for children.
Nelson is still keeping his entrepreneurial ear tuned for new business opportunities. With a qualification in agricultural studies, he sees potential to merge his two interests of agriculture and sustainability.
“I have good ideas that I can bring to life with Mr Price Foundation and The Litterboom Project team. I would love to open my own business with my own machines. I want to create more jobs and to uplift my community in Waterloo.”
It’s clear that Nelson carries the UpLift vision within his heart: uplifting himself, uplifting his family, and in his desire to uplift his community. “I love doing what I am doing. Whenever you work with passion, you can go forward.”
Mr Price Foundation is honoured to have uplifted this aspiring entrepreneur through training and self-employment – while simultaneously revolutionising plastic waste collection and contributing to a more sustainable future.
* Stats SA Quarterly Labour Force Survey Q1 2023