Green warriors win

EVERYTHING in their office is recycled, apart from two computer boxes and one shiny new green kettle. The air conditioner, chairs, files, containers and even the teabags that are kept for compost heap recycling – this is as green as any office can be.

Surrounding themselves with the fruits of their labour, Laura Henderson and Louise Simpson run the non-profit organisation, Greencycle, which provides a recycling collection service to homes and businesses in Port Elizabeth.

When the idea of the recycling service was born in 2008, both mothers felt the recycling project at their children's Montessori school was not enough to deal with all the household waste conveniently. The school only collected paper and glass, for a recycling company, and did not deal with one of the biggest pollution culprits – plastic.

"Our first collection was at 50 households and today we have over 1000 customers. Some are once-off customers but the regular homes and businesses where we collect waste for recycling on a weekly or monthly basis, span between 600 and 700 customers. This has been an amazing learning curve for us and we now employ 14 people," Henderson said.

At a minimal monthly fee, Greencycle collects "everything that is recyclable" on a weekly basis in suburbs like Summerstrand, Walmer and Mill Park, and in the rest of the city they collect once every two weeks or monthly.

Their two trucks and a bakkie return the waste to their warehouse, where it is sorted into glass, tins, plastics and paper to sell to bigger recycling companies.

Fabrics and crafts are sorted and donated to the Motherwell buy-back centre and Greencycle also sells jam jars at R2 to home industries and the public.

They say the money they make from selling the recycled goods is minimal and spent mostly on operating costs.

"We by no means make enough money to sustain ourselves, but we are providing a community service, and through Greencycle are enabling people to do the right thing. It is also important to educate people about what can be recycled and that it's not a huge effort," Henderson said.

She worked in the futures brokers industry in London but moved to South Africa in the late 1990s to work at the Born Free Foundation in Shamwari Game Reserve before becoming a stay-at-home mom.

Simpson, a former sociology lecturer, was also a stay-at-home mom before the green bug bit her and Henderson in 2008.

Simpson and Henderson chuckle when asked if they had found some really odd things in the waste that Greencycle sorts out. "We often find keys and valuables, with one man once throwing away an envelope with his entire rent money. Our staff always returns these items to the office," Simpson expended.