South Africa is home to 43,000 Abomakgereza, which loosely translates to “recycling hustlers”. These workers travel the streets in search of recyclable waste and then sell it on to recycling agencies.

For many of the Abomakgereza, this is their sole means of survival and the only way they can feed their families. It is an incredibly dangerous and exhausting way to make a living.

Local entrepreneur, Sifiso Ngobese, recognised the dangers faced whilst acknowledging the crucial role Abomakgereza play in South African society. He decided to take action and through his business, Unconventional Media, is setting out to make their jobs both easier and safer. 

Virgin Unite, Entrepreneurship, Unconventional Media

After doing some research he identified that one of the biggest problems waste pickers face is their trolleys – they fall apart easily and have next-to-no visibility. Put simply, they place Abomakgereza’s lives in danger.

Sifiso’s idea was to build trolleys that are sturdier and built to last, making the task less strenuous for the waste pickers. On average the pickers gather a backbreaking 50kg of recyclables per day and with the new trolleys they can collect up to 60kg. What’s more, the trolleys are designed with reflectors on them – raising visibility in the dark, preventing accidents and saving lives.

Unconventional Media is working to redefine South African outdoor media with these new trolleys – driven by their mission to provide affordable and environmentally-friendly marketing that strikes a chord with regular South Africans on the street. The new trolleys are much more durable, much safer, and they act as mobile billboards.

The company’s target for this year is to have 800 to 1,000 informal waste pickers using their trolleys – a target which is on track after partnering with Batho Pele (People First), a cooperative that works with 400 South African waste pickers. The reach of Unconventional Media’s advertising model is set to grow even further with the team looking to soon roll out the project into neighbouring African countries.

Unconventional Media is keeping people safe, creating job opportunities and giving back to the community – with 10 per cent of the profits from the advertising billboards being shared with the recycling hustlers. 

Virgin Unite were introduced to Unconventional Media through it's partnership withthe Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship - South Africa. Learn more about the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship - South Africa and their work here.