Families turn to glass recycling for survival

MUTARE- A fortuitous beginning in a campaign by environmental enthusiasts to rid a local suburb of accumulating glass waste has over years bolstered meager income for seven families.

Initially started as an environmental campaign to reduce increasing glass garbage in Hobhouse, one of the city’s newest suburbs, waste management has been turned into an alternative income generating project to assuage pangs of poverty and the liquidity crunch.

Three years ago a group of five men decided to launch a zero waste campaign as they witnessed, on a daily basis, glass waste accumulating at an exponential rate. They felt this waste posed a danger to their growing populace.

In their makeshift wheel barrows and carts the men often scorned by school drop outs, collected discarded glass as local municipality service delivery was severely limited and dumped it in pits in the peripheries of residential areas.

Today they are a formalised domestic glass recycling company comprising of seven members, including two women who joined in as means of survival and a necessity to put food on the table for their hungry families. All seven are unemployed.

Tanja Glasses is now a fully fledged ‘company’ operating in the backyard of Chairman Thomas Jarideni’s house producing recycled glass for domestic use, commercial and retail thanks to assistance from a local non-governmental organisation (NGO).

Jarideni acknowledges the role played by Mercy Corps in setting up markets for their recycled glass which they resell in packs of six at $2.50 boosting their meager earnings from odd piece jobs.

“When we started about 3 years ago this project was aimed at ensuring that we go back to zero waste in Hobhouse. We also wanted to protect the society and our environment from the accumulating glass waste.

“So we would collect this glass in empty sacks and wheel barrows and dump it in pits at the ends of the suburbs.

“However one of our colleagues taught us how to cut the glass for re use that’s when Mercy Corps and EMA (Environmental Management Agency) came in and offered to market this recycled glass for us.

“We said yes and ever since we have not looked back,” he said.

The process of cutting the glass is fairly simply, requiring a bucket of water, strong thread (mostly fibre which they outsource in rural areas) catapult and sandpaper, although manually production is somewhat slow.

One member of Tanja Glass, Luckson Tanyanyiwa demonstrated the process which lasts for not more than five minutes, depending on the glass as well as the thread used to cut the glass.

The Process

The glass is tied around by a catapult which is meant to insulate heat generated by the thread from spreading through the body of the glass. The thread is tied securely to a belt and then coiled around the glass which is repeatedly grated at the designated point until heat is generated.

It is then dipped into cold water where it cracks as the sudden cooling contracts the hot glass thereby breaking evenly on the desired edges which are then smoothed over by sand paper to refine the sharp rim.

This demonstration illustrated practical application of science at a domestic level which Tanja Glasses aims to surpass by acquiring a machine which can boost their production from the 300-400 cases they produce a month, claims Tanyanyiwa.

“As you have seen the process is fairly simple but it takes up a long time and if we had a machine we could produce more of this recycled glass but now we are limited to producing around 300-400 packs a month,” he said.

The aim of the Tanja Glass is to mechanise in order to increase their capacity to produce both for domestic and commercial markets.

For now their domestic market in their residential suburb is sufficient despite the slow uptake of their wares they say people have now warmed up to their products as they are now preferable due to their durability.

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