By focusing on progressive treatment technologies and investing in its people as well as the local areas it services, Buhle Waste is making a mark on SA’s refuse sector

Buhle Waste is a second-generation family business that is 100% black-owned and managed. The company’s focus is on achieving excellence in all business activities carried out in the communities in which it operates. The organisation also aims to be an embodiment of ‘Ubuntu’, with the knowledge that it takes a community to help grow a business.

Buhle Waste has been nurtured through the belief that homes and cities must be beautiful spaces; a love for people and work must be fostered; and respect for the environment must be maintained. As such, the company strives to maintain beauty, love and respect in all that it does.

Over the years, Buhle Waste has gained experience through the trials of business hardships and successes. It has been operational since 1997, having grown from a small business with a single truck to a business operating nationally with a fleet of more than 70 trucks and 350 staff.

Operations began in the dusty streets of Katlehong – a township in the Ekurhuleni Metro – managing the waste of the local communities in an effort to create a sense of beauty and pride in the environment. Dedication to the community and respect for the environment has continued to form the foundation of the company’s business operations to this day. Infused in this foundation is the perseverance, resilience and commitment to achieve success for its clients.

On launching in 1997, Buhle Waste faced the uphill challenge of navigating the economic and waste landscape in SA. It was a tense time for black businesses that had very little access to capital because of the very conservative financing mentality of the banks. In addition to that, pressure from the larger white-owned corporations within the industry that were resolved to minimise the number of new entrants into the sector was taking its toll    on Buhle Waste’s business operations and its ability to expand in scale and scope.

Without government intervention, namely BEE, chances are that SA’s waste industry wouldn’t have changed much, and that very few companies would have controlled the market share of the sector. Today, however, the industry is relatively fragmented, with lower barriers to entry and greater economic inclusion, leading to a spur in the economy.

In addition, the flood of new entrants into the market contributes to a more competitive environment, which has been beneficial to the companies, individuals and entities that rely on Buhle Waste’s services. It is within this landscape that the company continues to evolve and adapt to changing circumstances, such as the environments it serves.

In the early years of the business Buhle Waste was heavily dependent on other larger waste-management companies that were involved in the treatment and disposal of waste. Today, it’s one of the biggest waste-treatment companies in SA.

Innovation is also a pillar of the business and Buhle Waste continues to invest in technologies that will assist in achieving its zero-waste-to-landfill goals while simultaneously differentiating its value proposition in the market. Over the years, the firm has acquired and invested in three treatment technologies for medical waste across the country. In 2010, it acquired an incinerator in Gauteng that enables treatment of all medical waste streams.

To achieve its vision and to minimise its impact on the environment, Buhle Waste invested in green technology that had no emissions and reduced the waste from treatment to disposal at landfill. As such, it invested in steam treatment injection (STI) technology, which uses a steam injection chamber – as opposed to incineration – for treating medical and hazardous waste at high temperatures to sterilise and shred the waste, rendering it non-hazardous and safe to handle. Buhle Waste’s STI chamber is based in Gauteng, making it the first waste-management company to have an incinerator and non-burn technology on the same premises. This greatly increases its capacity to treat waste, and also reduces transportation costs.

The firm’s commitment to environmentally sustainable technology and ensuring that its benefits are seen throughout SA is further highlighted in its investment in the Converter for the flagship treatment site in Seshego in Limpopo.

The Converter is a revolutionary technology that, using friction from rotating shredder blades in a sealed chamber, generates heat to sterilise and destroy hazardous waste, rendering it non-hazardous. The machine reduces the original input by about 70% in volume and 60% in weight. The waste by-product retains a calorific value that is greater than that of coal, allowing Buhle Waste to explore ways in which this by-product can be used to generate energy. It converts waste into a refuse-derived fuel that presents a wealth of opportunities on a continent that is energy starved. This technology is an essential component of the company’s mission to achieve zero-waste-to-landfill by 2025.

Buhle Waste operates nationally, with offices, warehouses and/or treatment plants in Gauteng, Free State, Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces. It will soon have facilities in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, allowing the company to broaden its scope and scale of business operations in those regions and surrounding areas, including Lesotho and Swaziland. The firm’s mission is to become operational throughout the SADC region and spread its 2025 vision of zero-waste-to-landfill.

The organisation manages general, industrial, hazardous, chemical, sanitation and medical waste. This ability to manage multiple waste streams makes Buhle Waste the ideal partner to businesses that manage their waste on-site. Clients are able to leave their waste for Buhle Waste to handle while they go about their business of serving their own clients – a partnership that ensures their client’s success because they are not encumbered by the burden of their waste.

The company’s mission is to achieve its goals through investment in technology and just as importantly, if not more so, to invest in its people. Buhle Waste believes it is imperative that the firm, as a collective within its communities, collates resources and intellect to achieve the great positive impacts on beautifying communities and ensuring environmental sustainability.

It is with this in mind that the company provides scholarships to students who wish to study towards a degree that will aid them in achieving environmental and community sustainability and excellence. Buhle Waste has also introduced a graduate recruitment programme to engage the youth in economic participation and encourage future leaders to remain cognisant of their contribution to environmental sustainability.

Buhle Waste maintains that collaboration with communities is required to achieve its zero-waste-to-landfill objectives, and that the pillars of its business need to operate in synergy if it is to continue to hold true to its values of beauty, love, respect.

Tel: +27 (0)11 595 3000
Fax: +27 (0)11 866 2321
[email protected]

Caption 1: From left: Nkoko Sekete (regional manager), Phetole David Sekete (founder and CEO) and Thabang Sekete (business development manager)