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LOOK: These two entrepreneurs turned their passion for the environment into profitable businesses

Heavily polluted areas, like these pictured, are what Fortune Hadebe and Ursula van Eck are aiming to clean up. Picture: Pixabay

Heavily polluted areas, like these pictured, are what Fortune Hadebe and Ursula van Eck are aiming to clean up. Picture: Pixabay

Published May 20, 2022


CHANGE is afoot in the community thanks to two local entrepreneurs addressing waste management in their core areas of expertise.

First, we look at Fortune Hadebe’s Reroute Waste.

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Founder of Reroute Waste Fortune Hadebe. Picture: Reroute Waste/Facebook

In 2017, Fortune Hadebe founded Reroute Waste while studying at Tshwane University. Since then, the company has grown to 14 employees at one site in Pretoria and 13 at one site in Johannesburg. Initially, it was done on a small scale.

Fortune saw how much waste was being produced by his res – at the time, it had 2 400 students – and was not being recycled. In spite of numerous attempts to convince the faculty, he succeeded in diverting 33 tons of waste a year from the university residence to alternative initiatives, keeping it out of the landfill.

As the initiative grew, the business that owns the university residence, CGES, approached Fortune about taking on several other properties in and around Johannesburg. The business relationship has become mutually beneficial for Fortune and the res owners: they now provide Reroute with legal and accounting services.

"We need to start with ourselves and the next person, as it starts at home and at work. It is a matter of each citizen doing his or her part to ensure that the green transition is top-of-mind," says Fortune.

Picture: Reroute Waste

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He adds that the country's "green issues are not as high on the agenda as they could be".

He said that each citizen should play their part to ensure the issue remains top-of-mind.

"Consider the load-shedding we are currently experiencing; if we introduce the green agenda across the board, we will not be talking about load-shedding in years to come. But we still have such a reliance on coal, and this needs to change, " Fortune said.

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The environmentally conscious company's main aim "is to divert waste away from landfills". They accomplish this by "creating value out of the waste through on and offsite recycling and by offering rebates to those who create the waste".

Growth is important to Fortune as the business is a commercial entity. However, he still wants Reroute to effect change elsewhere in Johannesburg.

Now let's focus on Ursula van Eck's ocean-i

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This entrepreneur took a sabbatical from her job as a chartered accountant in 2019. During this time she wondered how she could make a difference in how much waste ends up in our oceans.

Van Eck and her former business partner went about founding ocean-i. Their aim is to find ways to "prevent the flow of plastic into the sea and producing innovative new products from recycled plastic".

Their plans include creating self-sustaining mini-hubs in low-income communities where residents would be encouraged to bring their plastic waste and earn rewards.

Van Eck intends to re-frame the narrative that waste shouldn't be thrown away.

"It can be reused, repurposed or recycled in some way and thereby upskill, create employment opportunities, as well contribute in some way towards stopping waste from entering the ocean, " she added.

Before founding the company, Van Eck wanted to do something about the huge volume of cigarette butts on beaches and in public places.

ocean-i teamed up with architect Pieter Matthews, to create a uniquely designed bench and a fun and funky cigarette butt bin.

They intend to launch the pilot project at Cape Town's V&A Waterfront.

Picture: ocean-i/Facebook

The lockdown period while the sale of cigarettes was prohibited also presented the company with another opportunity.

They trialled a home kit for smokers to collect their butts, and drivers would pick them up for recycling.

"Whatever we can do to get cigarettes out of landfills and our rivers will make all the difference. We want to find new ways to recycle and use plastic for new products, " said Van Eck.

Van Eck has also embarked on a relationship with the Sparks Schools, brokered through Endeavor South Africa, where environmental education is being taught.

"Many adults do not recycle and less than 9% of plastic is recycled so educating the youth on the 5 R's – refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle – at home is where it all starts, Van Eck added.