By Virginia Zifesho, bird story agency
Zimbabwean entrepreneur’s waste management outfit fills the gap left by inadequate municipal services.
During the Zimbabwean cholera outbreak of 2008, Odilo Linzi lost four people close to him.
“The cholera outbreak spread to Budiriro where l lived. People drank water from contaminated sources and there were no proper waste management services during that time and in the end water born diseases arose. Unfortunately l lost my uncle and three of my closest friends,” said Linzi.
This outbreak took place between August 2008 and June 2009, resulting in the loss of over 4,000 lives. Deeply moved by the crisis, a teenage Linzi pledged to dedicate his efforts towards developing a solution for waste management. It would be years before he could finally act.
Graduating with a degree in philosophy from the University of Zimbabwe, Linzi decided to start a waste management company in 2018.
“I’ve always had a strong passion for maintaining a clean environment. When I noticed the significant amount of unattended waste in Zimbabwe, I saw an opportunity to address the issue of cholera and dysentery caused by inadequate service delivery from the municipality,” he said.
“I started Oleans Waste Management Services by using my personal funds. Actually, I only had 5 (US) dollars, and I had to borrow 50 (US) dollars from a relative in order to register the company. I got my first client through marketing on Facebook; the lady saw the advert there and got interested in our services and contacted me,” Linzi explained.
Only two years into running his business, the Covid-19 pandemic struck. He was forced to shut down and look for new premises.
“I began working in Budiriro 1, where we collected recyclables for sale in an open area. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the City of Harare closed down our location. However, I was able to meet the director of Zimbabwe Sunshine Group, who connected me with our current location at the Zimbabwe Agricultural Society in Belvedere.”
Running a business can be challenging, but for Linzi, a hearing disability has made it even more difficult. This presented a challenge, particularly when it came to communicating with clients.
“I lost my hearing when I was young, due to malaria. The injection that I was given to cure it affected my hearing. I used to wear hearing aids but realised they could not help me much. I mostly rely on reading and writing. Therefore, I had to hire an administrative assistant to help communicate with clients,” he explained.
Currently, the company is involved in city-wide, door-to-door waste collection for households, corporations, and a diverse array of other clients.
“We operate in most parts of Harare, such as Borrowdale, Mt Pleasant, Avondale, Belvedere, Warren Park, Hatfield, Highfield, Marlborough, Msasa and Cranborne,” said Linzi.
The company deals with an average of 15 tonnes of garbage from its monthly collection activities. In addition to this, it also purchases and resells recyclables from informal waste pickers within and around Harare.
First, workers collect the waste. They then separate the recyclables, such as plastic bottles, bags, and cans, from the organic matter. The organic waste is composted, while the recyclable plastics are sold to plastic product manufacturers.
The company is also exploring the possibility of converting waste into biogas, which can be used as an energy source.
Lina Gwenzi, living in Avondale, highlighted the role of Olean’s services amidst the lack of consistent municipal waste management in her locality.
“Before we started using Oleans, we encountered many challenges due to the city council’s failure to collect garbage. This resulted in potential dangers for children who could rummage through the piled bins and individuals who could dispose of waste in illegal areas. However, thanks to Oleans, we now receive weekly garbage collection services, resulting in clean environments. Additionally, we no longer face the risk of disease outbreaks such as cholera and malaria,” she said.
Batsirai Sibanda, the officer in charge of environmental education and publicity at the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), has recognised the significance of the work being carried out by Linzi and other waste companies in Harare.
“As EMA, we value the efforts made by those in the recycling sector; waste is now being seen as a resource, and many are making a living from collecting recycling materials. Overall this has reduced the amount of waste in the environment, which aligns with our vision of a clean, safe and healthy environment. The agency is in the process of identifying incentives that we can give to those in the recycling sector and those who need assistance starting up their waste enterprises,” she said.
Linzi has encountered numerous challenges while operating the waste management business, making it far from smooth sailing.
“One of the biggest challenges I face in this business is the lack of equipment, especially reliable transportation. When I started, I had to rely on hiring other people’s vehicles, which proved unreliable and caused me to lose some customers. I then agreed with someone who owns a vehicle, which has been more dependable for us. However, this arrangement has challenges since we are not making as much profit.
“I am currently seeking donations to purchase a bigger truck and even offer shares to potential investors. Our goal is to have our vehicle and a spacious facility that can handle all aspects of waste collection, segregation, and composting,” said Linzi.
High staff turnover is also a significant concern. “Waste management is not a field that many people aspire to work in, which results in some of the staff only staying for two to three months,” he added.
Linzi’s five-year plan involves expanding his company both within Zimbabwe and beyond. Additionally, he aims to establish a fully operational recycling centre to promote the adoption of a circular economy in Zimbabwe.
/bird story agency