Only 16 percent of plastic in South Africa is recycled, leaving the rest to end up in landfills polluting rivers, roads, and communities.
According to this report by The Worldwide Fund for Nature, part of the failure to recycle is due to poorly designed packaging and a lack of guidance for designers, brand owners, and retailers, all of whom are critical to achieving high-quality recycling (WWF).
Despite this, South Africa’s recycling industry continues to innovate in new and innovative ways. In 2018, the country recycled over 500,000 tons of plastic, providing over 64,000 income-generating opportunities for waste pickers, collectors, and recyclers.
According to a PSB research survey, 60 percent of the youth who took part in the survey were interested in turning their environmental concerns and passion into a career.
Take a step forward. MicGalaw is a fashion and accessory line co-founded by Phumudzo Muthanyi and Mbali Mokgosi, two young women from the Orange Farm township in Johannesburg’s south. The two young women have carved out a niche for themselves in the recycling industry, turning recyclable plastics into valuable bags and accessories.
Muthanyi and Mokgosi’s passion and love for the arts inspired MicGalaw. They saw the same things being done year after year through fashion, which led to the creation of their sustainable, environmentally friendly fashion brand. MicGalaw’s innovative ladies are passionate about their journey in creating eco-friendly fashion while also creating job opportunities for other young people.
What was the inspiration behind the establishment of your business, and prior to it did you have experience in designing and recycling?
Her reply was Fascinating……
Prior to starting our company, we worked in industries unrelated to recycling and design; we were just regular people who worked a regular 9 to 5 job and were forced to recycle due to circumstances. My father used to fix TVs and DVD players in our neighborhood, so there were a lot of [leftover] electronics after his death in 2016, and we decided to recycle them after getting advice from our neighbors on what to do with them. It was from there that the idea for a business was born.
We learned a lot about recycling in Orange Farm because there were so many people recycling and recycling various types of recyclables. When we met a young man who used to recycle for a living and was addicted to nyaope, a type of black tar heroin. He gave us a lot more information about recycling. We wanted to learn how to recycle plastics because it was the one thing that was suffocating our township and wasn’t being recycled in any way, so that’s how we got started.
Further she mentioned about her first piece of art as below,
Our very first plastics piece was the most disastrous experiment ever. From the plastic that covers new beds, we made bags. We decided to spray paint the bags and leave them to dry, but when we returned the next day, the paint had peeled away from the plastic, leaving us with a disaster. We didn’t have any sewing skills at the time, so we had to hand sew these plastics together.
After the first experiment, we began purchasing black trash bags, which became prohibitively expensive. We then decided to collect the plastic at dumping sites. We then began to incorporate various fabrics into our designs.