Recycling project founder up for national award

Port Elizabeth entrepreneur Maria Grewar has been nominated in the social entrepreneurship category of the Santam Women of the Future Awards
WORK REWARDED: Port Elizabeth entrepreneur Maria Grewar has been nominated in the social entrepreneurship category of the Santam Women of the Future Awards
Image: Supplied

A Port Elizabeth businesswomen’s zeal for social justice has earned her a nod for the 2020 Santam Women of the Future awards.

The ReTrade Project founder Maria Grewar, 30, is nominated in the social entrepreneur category, which honours business who make a positive impact in society.

Grewar is among nine nominees across three categories comprising businesswomen from across SA.

The ReTrade Project is a community based recycling and social empowerment project that partners with recyclers from Nelson Mandela Bay via a barter exchange system for essential food items and clothing.

“Our main goal to promote a value-for-value system and not handouts because that’s not sustainable.

“Seeing the amount of pollution around, we looked at ways in which we can turn it into a commodity, hence the recycling project,” Grewar said.

Grewar works with at least 15 volunteers who run the ReTrade store and the project’s environmental education programmes in schools, corporate groups and the community at large.

Recyclers collect recyclable material and hand it over to The ReTrade Project recycling depot in exchange for food, clothing items, blankets and toiletries from the project’s store based in Walmer Heights.

Founded in 2014, the project now has more than 40 recyclers on its database, Grewar said.

“We have a few different options for people to work with us — we have a volunteer programme on for people who want to help our traders on the ground or people who are in need can come and learn about pollution and what kind of material they can exchange.


“We also accept donations from business and they go towards our store while corporates can get involved in our social responsibility package,” she said.

Grewar said volunteers and recyclers were predominantly from the Walmer area.

The Mount Pleasant woman grew up in a family of entrepreneurs in the US — her father was an electrician while her mother ran multiple small businesses from home.

“My whole life I’ve had a pull towards social justice and wanting to make a difference in my community and I guess my parents being small business owners also had an influence on me.


“Unemployment is such a huge issue in South African society and if we can create jobs through whatever means, we can restore people’s dignity,” Grewar said.

She moved to SA to spend a gap year in 2006 and found herself a permanent home in Port Elizabeth.

Following her decision to stay in SA, Grewar pursued a BA in English, psychology and sociology through Unisa.

This is the story of Wilson, one our traders at the Retrade Project.

Grewar said she viewed the nomination as a reward for the work she had put into the project over the years.

The Santam Women of the Future Awards are a partnership between Santam, True Love and Fairlady Magazines.


The award will be adjudicated by Soga alongside former SA public protector Professor Thuli Madonsela, social entrepreneur Dawn Nathan-Jones, author and broadcaster Redi Tlhabi, Santam executive head of HR  Enid Lizamore and Fairlady editor Suzy Brokensha.

Grewar stands  a chance to win a R50,000 cash prize, accompanied by a host of other prizes.

Winners will be announced during a virtual awards ceremony on October 16 at 12.30pm.

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