Throwing away food leftovers has been Pertunia Ndo’s main source of frustration and it was her wish to do something tangible to address this problem. It has been observed that every year the country’s households throw away as much as 1.4 million tons of unwanted food which end up clogging the country’s landfills.
The city of Tshwane has ten landfills and five of them are already so full that they have been permanently closed. “A dormant landfill can never be used again; nothing will grow near it and people can never live there,” observed Ndou
And her dream was fulfilled when she finally founded an innovative waste management company called Ubuhlebezwe Waste Solutions. The company provides food wastage solutions and collection service including washing the bin for the city of Tshwane. The company has already been registered with its own logo and slogan, “Reclaiming the land from waste”.
Ndou, who is currently a Unisa student, was recently awarded third prize in the waste management category at the Tshwane Inter-University Innovation Challenge last year November.
The challenges aims to encourage students from the Pretoria-based tertiary institutions, which include the University of Pretoria, Unisa and the Tshwane University of Technology to help develop innovative solutions to the city’s most urgent service delivery problems. The students’ innovations were to help the city deal with problem related to energy and electricity, waste management, revenue collection and transportation.
Ndou enlisted her two chemical engineers partners, namely Lunga Kula and Ntobeko Mtetwa, to help conceptualise and design her invention. This will take the form of a recycling bin for household food waste which, instead of clogging up the City’s landfills, will be converted into biofuel.
“The bin has a grinder that shreds all kinds of food waste into small pieces and drops these into the bed of the bin, which contains material that neutralises any odours,” Ndou said. The grinder is sealed so that it is safe to use and child-friendly, and can be operated manually or with electricity, she added.
Ndou said the intention is to encourage households and the communities to become environmental conservers as well as help in conserving the land. She said at the moment, recycling food waste is not the norm among South African households. She noted that only one in 10 households segregate their waste for recycling and we want to help change this culture.
Coming third place in the waste management category of the competition is no mean feat and has not only motivated Ndou but it has also helped her bring to fruition her vision. The prize includes access to incubation services and R50 000 in seed funding to further develop her food waste solution. At the moment Ndou and her business partners are sourcing a manufacturer to make their first working food waste bin.
Ndou said they take their initiative seriously and that the entrepreneurial skills she acquired while participating in the Tshwane Inter-University Innovation Challenge will be invaluable and form a firm basis for her business to grow.
“The training was the eye-opener I needed. It pricks holes in your idea and makes you think: ‘What am I missing? Is there a market? What more can be done to make this idea work?’ No matter how wonderful your idea seems, there is always more to be,” she said.
Ndou, who already has a BTech degree in human resources, will be continuing with her education studies at Unisa while building her waste solutions company of which she is its managing director.