Better Living Challenge


Waste not, want not

Aug 20, 2015


Editor’s Choice Award: Use-It Waste Recycling Winner: Green Technology Innovation Award

In the eThekwini municipal area, waste from building sites is being reincorporated back into the construction industry cycle, and it’s being used to build houses.

As a full-service offering, USE-IT Waste Recycling Facility acts as a bridge between the private and public sectors, connecting companies or entrepreneurs who would otherwise have not met. Not only is waste diverted — huge numbers of jobs are created on the projects they undertake.

“We act as a conduit between the private and public sector, which allows us to engage on a number of levels. Basically what we do is take something with no value — waste — and convert it into something with added value,” says Chris Whyte, managing director of USE-IT.

One of the most successful projects has been in the Compressed Earth Block Building project. “Adobe has been around for thousands of years. As much as 20% to 35% of waste is building rubble: we’ve taken resources and developed a process to use this. The brick is three to five times stronger than concrete. It’s waterproof, it’s cheaper and it’s better, so it’s a huge improvement on adobe and stronger than conventional building materials.”

The rubble that was destined for landfill is reused as a component in the creation of a new type of brick. Each brick is made up of 25% mixed builders’ waste, 5% cement stabilising agent, and 70% soil.

They have also identified other components that can be used. Most recently, 760 000 recalled ceramic mugs were crushed and used as mix in 118 000 compressed earth bricks. That’s 230 tonnes diverted from landfill. Interestingly, it’s also cost-efficient: for example, this project ran at a saving of R1.50 per kilogram of cups.

The bricks are then used to build multi or single-story houses. USE-IT has also implemented recycling inner tubes, PVC banners and e-waste, and is currently running a massive glass-recycling programme that will provide thousands of jobs in the KwaZulu-Natal area.

They are now in the process of building a waste beneficiation centre in Hammarsdale. The centre will act a hub for USE-IT’s current bouquet of waste beneficiation projects. “There’s a massive opportunity for growth. We want it to be the largest green hub on the continent,” says Whyte.

On site, USE-IT also plans to set up a training centre to teach people how to upcycle waste. They’ve also identified the need to build a retail centre, thereby creating a market for trade and distribution.

Largely funded by the eThekwini municipality for the last few years, USE-IT is now looking to extend the project into other sectors, and across the country. There has also been huge interest from the rest of Africa.

“The most important thing is that we are creating jobs in various industries. We can act as the link in the green economy.”

This article first appeared on the Mail & Guardian online on 24 July 2015