Cape Waste celebrates 30 years

Cape Town-based recycling company, Cape Waste, is celebrating 30 years in the industry this year. CBN caught up with Chairman, Nick van Wyk and ...

Cape Town-based recycling company, Cape Waste, is celebrating 30 years in the industry this year. CBN caught up with Chairman, Nick van Wyk and General Manager Colin Higgins to see what it takes to make it in this competitive industry. 

In 30 years, Van Wyk says that the biggest change in the industry is the growth in its sheer size. “In the early 1980’s the industry was pretty small and insignificant, but it has grown into a major industry today. This is not a South African trend, but has happened globally, and has created a huge amount of formal and informal jobs.”

The efficiencies in the industry have also advanced substantially. Van Wyk says that the recovery rate of recyclables is better now than it has ever been, and continues to improve every year. 

Cape Waste has also seen a growing trend among companies to manage their waste onsite. This gives them clear ideas on better ways to reduce, reuse and recycle the waste produced by their company. In the past, companies merely wanted to dump their waste, but now they want it separated at the source and sent for recycling with online reports on the amount they have recycled for reporting purposes. 

Van Wyk goes on to say “People now see business opportunities in recycling and we have supported and set up many agents, or sub-contractors, around the Western Cape to help increase the recovery of recyclables. We supply assets like vehicles and containers to assist their business growth and support the industry going forward.”

“The other major change we have seen is curb-side collection, or collection from homes using the 2-bag system, where homes place recyclables in one bag and non recyclables or wet waste in the other.” Local government is running these on tender basis, as trials with collectors and recyclers. 

Exports of material have risen as a result of these changes, as the South African market cannot absorb all the material. Cape Waste was one of the first companies to start exporting paper recyclables across the world. This ensures that these items do not end back into landfill airspace.

When asked what he attributes Cape Waste’s 30 years of success to, Van Wyk attributes it to three key factors:

1. The company invested early into its supplier base, both in relationships with suppliers, which is key, and the capital equipment to make them more efficient in managing their recyclable volumes. 

2. Cape Waste also pay the market rate and keep them up to date with market conditions and trends.

3. Service is key. “We ensure we collect and manage our supplier sites for maximum uptime of their factories and operations.”

We asked Nick van Wyk about the lessons that the company has learnt in its 30 years. Without hesitation, he says “To be honest and truthful to our customer base.” He continues “To be objective in the good and bad times, when there is over and under supply, which undoubtedly effects the value of the material in the market place; to put our customers and suppliers first, despite what the market conditions dictate, and to always, despite everything, give a good service.”

Every business has aspects that keep management up at night, and it is a good indication of what the trends and focus is of the leaders of the company are. Van Wyk says that his biggest challenges are to think about simpler, better and lower cost solutions for all, to think strategically about the future and where the company needs to go and to take time to assess the business and it’s impact on others.

Cape Waste certainly works hard at keeping ahead of the technological curve, says General Manager Colin Higgins. Clients each have an online portal, where they can see the amount of recyclable materials that have been collected, the carbon footprint that has been offset, including the carbon footprint of the delivery vehicles. This is updated as soon as the waste arrives at the Cape Waste site. 

The company is now also working in a Smart Card reward system that will be launching in August, says Higgins. “Our clients will be issued with a card that will be swiped on arrival at our depots. As the recyclables all have a cash value, the client (company, youth group, school or individual) can nominate NGO’s, church groups, companies, individuals, etc. who will be paid out a pre-set portion of the value of the waste. This gives the client the opportunity to extend their recycling programme into a social responsibility effort as well. 

Higgins concludes by saying “Cape Waste owes our success to our suppliers and loyal client base, and look forward to the next 30 years. Our company is all about the individuals, both within our firm and who support us.”

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