Recycling is Garbage | An Interview




“Recycling is a failing business.” says the CEO of TerraCycle. After all the research I’ve done I couldn’t agree more. But this shouldn’t stop us from working hard towards better solutions.

But how about the third world? People don’t have the same funds or resources to even just do basic recycling. Mind you they come up with their own creative ways to tackle this evergrowing problem.

Cameroon's 1st made boat from "recycled plastic bottles waste" by Madiba&Nature.

I had the pleasure to do my first online interview with Bryan from South Africa. Bryan is an ex-police officer from S.A. and we met online at the Wealthy Affiliate community. Enjoy the interview.

I want to start with the question of how you ended up from being a police officer to working in waste management, and what exactly was your role?

I retired from the S.A. Police in 1997 and started the first Commercial Farm Watch Security Company in KwaZulu Natal. After 5 Years, I went on to do Training, Occupational Health, and Safety ad then on to the ISO world.

In 2014 I was approached by a waste company to take on the role of Contracts Manager on a site where they did Recycling and Stripped paint from the Alloy wheels with flaws. I had had some experience with recycling from some of my other contracts, and this Company topped up my training.

Can you tell us if recycling works?

Recycling can save a company a fair amount of money. If one takes the cost of sending waste to a dump at the expense of about 5K (in South African Rand for a 5-ton load), whether the load is five tons or not. Add to that saving the money received for the recycled materials which is not a whole lot, but it can cover the cost of your now reduced waste removal bill.

“Everything depends on volumes and the types of waste being recycled.”

I believe that recycling can truly work, but there is a lot of education required.


What is being recycled and what is just being burned?

In RSA, what is not recycled is taken to a land fill site. Nothing is really burned. Unfortunately, not very much is recycled in the RSA. I think more waste is recycled by the informal waste collectors that pull carts around, go through the dirt bins on the side of the road and remove recyclable waste than is recycled by business/industry.


Does the system work in SA?

That is a Loaded question… I believe it is part of a solution, but in South Africa, not enough is done to promote it. The impression is that the return on the effort is so little that it is not worth the effort. “Bottom Line determines everything.”

The fact that Some Waste Companies are known to defraud their clients and pay their clients far less than is due to them does not help.


According to the world bank SA is on place 15 when it comes to waste generating countries. In your opinion, what needs to change to make this number smaller?

When it is cheap to “dump” waste and recycling is perceived to be uneconomical, the companies are going to go the easier route and “Dump” waste. Recycling needs management and space, which in turn costs money.

Until the cost of sending waste to a landfill becomes prohibitive, and the rewards of recycling improve, it is not likely that much will change in South Africa. One must realize that we are basically a third World Country with an unemployment rate of 27.2%.

The unemployment rate among young people aged 15–34 was 38,2% so the priority is on development and Job Creation at all costs. I wonder if recycling even figures anywhere other than on paper?


Do you think people are aware of the plastic pollution crisis? If not, what do you think would be the best way to introduce this knowledge?

In S.A. Plastic disposable carry bags are still sold at the supermarkets for your purchases, and the state receives “payment” for this. These bags are seen everywhere, even blowing around the countryside.

With such high unemployment and education in this regard not what it should be, people are more worried about finding work and food than the state of the countryside. I have heard people laughingly state, as they throw their waste out the taxi windows, “Job Creation”!

I don’t have any answers to this complex problem, I suspect that it should be a top-down approach. I.E. we should start with Industry and businesses, force them to address the issues. This will make their employees more aware and hopefully, they start taking some of the practices home.

Addressing this problem would take money, a resource that, I am afraid, South Africa has squandered. I don’t see this issue being addressed until Private sector is involved.


To what degree does corruption play a role in waste management?

As I stated earlier, you have major international waste companies stealing R100K a month from a customer like Nissan SA in Pretoria, and when it is reported to the CEO of the waste company, both the whistleblower and the National Risk Manager are fired within months of each other and no action is taken against the instigators of such fraud.

Do I think corruption plays a role in waste management?



Do you think the oil companies have too much power and continue pushing single-use plastic products?

As long as it is allowed, ALL companies will do what they can to make a buck. If the supermarkets decide to use paper bags instead of disposable carry bags, the oil companies will stop producing these bags, so I don’t believe we should single out just the oil companies, although they definitely play a role.

Just look at plastic straws. They are now being phased out and Restaurants are supplying paper straws. Why could this not be done for plastic carry bags, bottles (glass is recyclable) and lots of other packagings?


What advice would you give a smart, driven student about to enter the “Real World”? What advice should they ignore?

I would suggest that they look to new developments in the waste industries and help move away from landfill. I am quite interested in the Plasma Gasification system. It can solve our waste problem as far as landfills go and it can add to the power grid that is currently under severe strain.

I believe that this technology could be the future of power as we will never stop making waste and the by-product of the Plasma Gasification system is a raw material for building roads etc. Plasma Gasification systems will even take care of our Hazardous waste as they gasify everything and, unlike incineration, it does not release toxic gasses or dust into the atmosphere.

Thank you so much for your time, Bryan. I am curious about what our readers have to say in the comments below:

Have your say; Did you experience a similar story in your home? What are your thoughts on Plasma Gasification Systems?

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Hendrik Kaiser

I've studied biology and lived for 3 years on an off-grid permaculture farm. I love kitesurfing and keeping my body healthy and fit. Hence, I care so much about keeping our environment clean and being as zero waste as possible. Being a zerowasteman is a superpower everyone has inside of themselves, and I want to teach you how you can unleash it.

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