The lockdown has not been kind to many businesses across the country, and one of them is Nokwanda Sotyantya’s recyling co-op in Imizamo Yethu.
Hout Bay Recycling opened at the drop-off facility behind the police station in 2008, but Ms Sotyantya had to close it during lockdown when many of the businesses they served closed.
They reopened last month, but things have been slow. Ms Sotyantya said many of their customers were still closed and those that had opened were limping along.
The last three months of lockdown had been “three months of hunger” for her and the depot’s eight employees, she said.
“Lockdown came as a disaster to us, since we don’t have secured cash for days during lockdown. We last earned in March and after that we’ve been struggling, since we only earn from what we sell.”
Hout Bay Recycling started when Ms Sotyantya’s late husband, known as the “Headman” around Hout Bay, started a delivery and cleaning service before stumbling upon two women who were recycling.
“Through their meeting, they influenced my husband to bring me on board to run the project. Then, after those meetings were done, we then started and registered as a primary co-op,” she said.
They started off with 10 employees, her husband as the driver, Ms Sotyantya in admin and then eight sorters.
“We survived so many challenges,” Ms Sotyantya said.
Around Hout Bay are some loyal recyclers keeping her doors open, such as Mbulelo Mathiya, who has made a habit of supporting the depot.
“Those women are very hard-working and I always try to support. I felt really bad for them during lockdown, and I can only imagine what they were going through,” he said, encouraging others to support the community’s small businesses.
“It’s businesses like these that are keeping the roofs over their heads and bread on their tables. The big companies can take the hit, but it’s make or break for businesses like these.”
Meanwhile, Ms Sotyantya has tried to up her game by adding a collection service to her business, in a fight to survive. “I have to do what it takes, because my family depend on me and this business is what keeps us going at the end of the day. Not just for me, but for everybody who is working here.”
To support Hout Bay Recycling or if you have recyclable materials, call Ms Sotyantya on 073 270 6375.