Building System Capacity - Green Economies

By valorizing waste, we create circular green skills that generate jobs & provide new skills while saving the planet from waste overload.

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Written by


  • Yes, I fulfill all of the eligibility criteria.

Initiative's representative name

Chris Whyte

Initiative's representative date of birth

24 April 1967

Initiative’s representative gender

  • Man

Which eligible market are you based in?

  • South Africa

Where are you making a difference?


Website or social media url(s) @useitkzn

When was your organisation founded?


Focus areas

  • Helping people adapt to technologies of the future
  • Financial skills and capability
  • Reskilling and upskilling the workforce

Project Stage

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)

Yearly Budget: How much capital do you need to accomplish your proposed project?

  • $100k - $250k

Organisation Type

  • Non-profit / NGO

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed

A Feasibility Study was completed and indicated this was a feasible project from an environmental, social economic and financial perspective we built a "Green Hub" that will promote job creation by participating in the production of green products from recycled and locally available material for larger scale contracts, while at the same time providing participants with useful skills development, training and incubation for own future business ventures. It will also stimulate economic activity in the area from the collection of recyclable waste and empower people to live their life with dignity and respect.

2. The problem: What problem surrounding employability or financial capability are you helping to solve?

Unemployment is a issue in SA and yet the Green Economy in unlocking waste-related economic opportunities still needs to gain traction. Most skills and training programmes in the country have neglected this sector & opportunities are not being realized. New green jobs and SMMEs need to be created in this sector which will unlock meaningful opportunities for youth development and employment. This necessitates new diversified training programmes.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

The need for Green Skills is a common thread running through all South Africa’s Green Economy plans, yet there is no catalytic initiative to build the capacity of the national skills development system to pro-actively and strategically produce Green Skills for the Green Economy. The current SAQA standards do not cater for accredited green skills training courses or qualifications and SETA’s are not aligned to this sector. The project focuses on aspects – Employability Enhancement (Skill Development) and Sustainable Employment (Employment Generation) of disadvantaged persons. The Skill Development Project aims to create the demand of skilled workforce of unskilled persons in various waste beneficiation technologies by way of carrying job mapping drives and making the candidates competent and skilled to perform the job. The purpose of this training is to provide a programme for learners that intend to establish or have established a small business. The programme offers entrepreneurial skills to capitalise on opportunities to start and grow sustainable businesses that form part of the mainstream economy in South Africa within the green economy.

4. How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solving the problem?

We identify problematic waste streams & through R&D provide new technologies, products & markets through the beneficiation of waste. We innovate to unlock the value of waste, particularly those waste streams currently considered technical unrecyclable. We have developed systems that process glass into several grades of material for over 30 market applications at 10 X the value of raw cullet. We developed systems that use crushed glass aggregate and mixed dirty waste plastics in a 60:40 ratio to manufacture non-structural cement replacement products (pavers and curb stones) & small-scale systems that convert mixed plastic waste into paraffin fuels for local cooking & heating and industrial boiler fuel applications. Innovation is key.

5. Employability: how is your organization or project teaching people to develop the skills that they need to survive in the future job market?

Through these processes minimizing waste’s adverse impact on human health and the environment is made. The Project aims to create the demand of skilled workforce of unskilled persons in various waste beneficiation technologies by way of carrying job mapping drives and making the candidates competent and skilled to perform the job. We develop this through hands-on skills training as conventional skills in government accredited programmes are not fit for this sector. Our own skilled trainers physically engage with the youth using their hands, tools and innovative technologies to manufacture new products. This includes support on design, materials selection, cost accounting, time management, marketing and other conventional skills development approaches relating to business management & we support this through skills development, incubation and post-incubation to ensure its success.

5a. Please describe which future-oriented skills your organization is focused on fostering and how you have measured / plan to measure progress

We track the number of participants in the program, identify the entrepreneur and provide them with business support, mentoring and access to finance and markets to become sustainable employers. Our future oriented skills are based around the application of innovative Alternative Waste Treatment (AWT) technologies, developing the Waste Beneficiation Centre as a campus around the concept of a Waste Technology Innovation Centre. Future skills developments we plan in the near future include options like 3D printing of new products from waste plastics and alternative sustainable energy options.

6. Financial capability: how is your organization or project creating innovative solutions that arm people with ability to optimize their current and future financial health

We create partnerships to provide business support. In specific BusinessFit who has created what we believe is perhaps the first quality assurance B2B Services App in South Africa. The App has been the result of their 8 years in mentoring Entrepreneurs and helping them to create solid business foundations to support their business ideas and endeavors. The App helps Entrepreneurs through a 5 Star Quality Assurance process, while also creating an online profile for the market to seek and identify new supplier potential.

6a. Please describe what aspect of financial capability your organization is focused on fostering and how you have measured / plan to measure progress.

Building and maintaining a business framework includes critical foundational aspects like creating appropriate budgets, defining suitable product margins and cashflow requirements, drawing up service level agreements and supplier contracts, appointing staff and creating a human resource management foundation, defining quality assurance standards, policies and procedures. These are not normally the skills understood and held dear by an Entrepreneur. Through the partnership with BusinessFit we would be able to measure the progress of the Entrepreneur and record the number of jobs created.

7. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Conventional public and private sector approaches focus on antiquated methods of waste management, conventional recycling, collection centers and buyback centers which have proven to be economically unviable and unsustainable. Our approach is unique, innovative and centric to our community development principles. Some countries and businesses are identifying principles and strategies that will drive sustainability innovation into the future we aim to have a competitive advantage and reduce the costs of having to import the new technologies but rather localize technology development.

8. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

Over the past year we have trained 28 youth from previously disadvantaged groups. Two SME's from this group are being developed and an additional 6 permanent jobs created on the site where the trained will now facilitate the training of the new intake and assist in the site management and administration. An additional 6 have been employed permanently to work on a new project on the site mechanically separating heavy metals from waste tailings. There is no other programme in the country that has our record of retention and success. The next year will see an additional 43 youth trained in waste beneficiation technologies.

9. Financial Sustainability Plan. Can you tell us about you plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

Use-It is currently funded by eThekwini Municipality to cover operational costs. The Hammarsdale Waste Beneficiation Centre sustains its cost through rentals and participation. Funding is sought on a project to project basis. In the long term, the centre should be sustainable through key tenants and product sales. Use-It is also currently developing expansion plans to grow the Centre and actively engaged with potential funders. We also continually seek new partnerships, both financial and technical. Ultimately the design behind the expansion is to include larger premises for our successful SME’s to operate from where they can continue to get support, but also based on a profit-share regime.

10. Team

Chris Whyte - Founder and Director Quade Corder - Chairman of the Board Tim Bettany - Operations Manager Belinda Putterill - Office Manager

Help Us Support Diversity! Are you a member of an under-served , under-represented, or marginalized group in your country of residence? (yes/no) (this question is optional – if you choose to fill it out, the response will not be shared with your fellow contestants)

  • Race
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Socioeconomic class
  • Other

If you selected “yes” to any of the categories above, please explain how being a member of this group has impacted you and your work?

Use-It is a non-profit organisation and we have always ensured that our selection of participants and beneficiaries are from previously disadvantaged people with a focus on women and youth.

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Search engine

11. Bring it to life: Please walk us through a concrete example of how your solution will solve the problem you’re trying to address

The focus of this Centre is the Incubators that form part of the on-site operations. Training is done on new technologies; with the aim of commercialization to create employment. This is managed through clear & logical activities relating to Candidate Selection, Workshop Content, Mentorship, Budgets, Access to Finance, Remote vs Onsite Support, Managing Stakeholders and Funders, Performance Management, Monitoring and Evaluation. One of the technologies deployed related to a process of mixed waste plastics (previously considered unrecyclable) & a mix of crushed glass and other inert waste such as mine tailings into molded concrete replacement products (pavers and curb stones) with zero cement. Through partnerships with Corporates we use Extended Producer Responsibility to manufacture more production systems distributed to areas with poor waste management & collection infrastructure.

12. Skills Matching: HSBC Employees will have the opportunity to offer skilled-volunteering. If matched, which of the following skills would you be most interested in receiving?

  • Planning & Strategy
  • Monitoring Impact
  • Research
  • Marketing Strategy, Design

14. Financial Sustainability – please tell us more about how you plan to fund and scale your project over the next 12 months.

Our core focus is the opportunity of working with the corporate sector needing solutions for packaging waste, specifically glass and plastics. On the glass side, we are able to incentivize collection at community level because we are able to produce a product that is ten times the value of cullet in the bottling industry. We are looking to scale this project as this has a 40% profit margin and can cover many of the costs of the Centre. Similarly, the Ocean Paver project is being funded by Unilever and we are hoping to finalize the support of Dow Chemicals HQ in the USA for the R&D component as they also seek solutions for global packaging waste. The Ocean Paver unit is able to compete directly as we are able to produce and sell a paver for R35 vs the concrete equivalent at R45. Using the EPR model with the corporates will also allow this project a 35-40% profit margin.

15. Growth Strategy: What are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

Glass recycling applications illustrate that 8 of the 9 provinces in South Africa could implement these systems. We estimate the creation of 5000 jobs per province to recycle all the glass waste on the assumption that through procurement and supply chain mechanisms we could create the market by offsetting imports. 

There are 278 municipalities in SA where we could deploy the Ocean Paver systems.  These are cost-effective alternatives that assist the country in creating jobs and underpin their commitment to national directives on offsetting carbon emissions.

16. Activating changemakers: How are you giving people the power to control their own destiny and support other people to become changemakers in their communities?

A large deliverable of Use-it is education and advocacy and we do many public presentations to share the story of our successes. Last year we made 36 public presentations sharing ideas and solutions with over 5000 people.  Our biggest impact though has to be with Enterprise Development as the focus is to create many SME’s that employ people directly; indirectly support surrounding communities in collection fees; positively impact the environment and reduce waste impacts; and create products that offset imports and conventional high carbon products that lead to a more sustainable ecosystem. 

17. Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions, if any, has the project received so far?

USE-IT is an award-winning NGO & has been a finalist in a couple of the World’s biggest awards won several global awards in the last 3 years: 2017 Finalist: Circular Awards 2017; 2017 Finalist: CIWM; 2018 Winner: AFRISAM SAIA Award; 2019 Build Magazine: Recycling and Waste Management Awards; 2019 Energy Globe: World Awards for Sustainability

18. Tell us about how collaborations and partnerships would enhance the scalability and impact of your project

We have massive impacts across SA.  The innovations developed in the waste sector are dependent on successful partnerships.  We follow a multi-pronged approach from local, to national & international relationships.  For such a small organization to create links with multinational organisations like Unilever, Dow, the Delos Foundation and others stands testament to the impact we have.  We need these partnerships to scale and implement our successes across the globe.  

Finally - Your Selfie Elevator Pitch: Share a 1-minute video that shares a quick summary of the problem you would like to solve, how you’ve chosen to solve it, and the impact you hope to see.

Evaluation results

5 evaluations so far

1. OVERALL Evaluation:

Yes, absolutely! - 20%

Yes/maybe - 60%

Maybe - 20%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

2. Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

Yes, absolutely! - 0%

Yes/maybe - 80%

Maybe - 20%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

3. Does this entry have SOCIAL IMPACT?

Yes, absolutely! - 40%

Yes/maybe - 40%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 20%

No - 0%

4. Is this entry VIABLE financially and operationally?

Yes, absolutely! - 20%

Yes/maybe - 20%

Maybe - 60%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%


Yes, absolutely! - 40%

Yes/maybe - 20%

Maybe - 40%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

6. FEEDBACK: Highlights

IMPACT POTENTIAL: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) – and you have a concrete plan for future impact. You have specific tools for measuring impact. - 100%

QUALITY OF INNOVATION: You have a great understanding of the problem, have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful solutions - 50%

FINANCIAL AND OPERATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work operationally and financially in the present and future; your plan is specific and you value sustainability. - 50%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: You have a good plan on how to activate changemakers and empower them to innovate through your product or programming - 100%

Other option - 0%

7. FEEDBACK: Areas for Improvement

IMPACT POTENTIAL: make sure to provide specific instances of your social impact (or how you plan to measure impact) – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, the main activities/products, and provide evidence of (or plan for) impact evaluation - 66.7%

QUALITY OF INNOVATION: make sure to describe how your solution is unique and innovative – it is helpful to include the research you have done on past solutions and how your solution is different from (and/or builds upon) these. - 100%

FINANCIAL AND OPERATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY: make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 66.7%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: make sure you describe your plan for how to empower others to become changemakers through your programming, service, or product - 33.3%

WRITING STYLE. Try to be concise, descriptive, and specific. Avoid jargon. - 0%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 0%

Other option - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Belinda

Thank you for the review and the feedback. The Green Economy and circularity are the latest buzz words around the world but not all South Africans understand what this means. By making "waste" a form of "wealth" for rural communities, by upskilling and explaining the circularity of a product we create entrepreneurs that can sustain a livelihood and in turn create employment. The process is circular and new product applications that are created by upcycling waste are innovative and new to the market. Research and development of technologies is ongoing as problematic waste streams need innovative solutions. USE-IT has won both local and international awards for innovative technologies: for more information please visit our website

Photo of Old Friend

yeah that nice