|Mtendere Chimaliro and her husband with the tin cans collection|
Meet Mtendere Chimaliro, an economically deprived Malawian woman making a living out of waste collection. As we drove to her place with Nyomi and George (ICCM team), I couldn’t stop imagining how exciting the experience of meeting her would be. Mtendere lives at 6 miles in area 36 Lilongwe. She is a proud mother of two beautiful girls and a wife to a waste collector. Here is how the interview went.
Q: WHEN DID YOU START THE WASTE COLLECTION BUSINESS?
We started the waste collection business in 2016 together with my husband.
Q: HOW DID YOU START?
Well, before the business we were employed to guard the unfinished house that we live in by the owner, who was very rich. Eventually the rich man passed away and we were allowed to stay in the house but our salaries became rental fee. That is when we resorted to the waste collection business as a way of supplementing our income.
Q: WHY THE WASTE COLLECTION BUSINESS?
The business is very easy to start as it requires very little capital and as we live next to 6 miles dump site (Lilongwe City Council Waste land fill dump) it was an approachable place to obtain waste and sell the items.
Q: CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE BUSINESS IN BRIEF?
We collect all types of waste from dump areas and we sell them on the streets to any interested people particularly tin smiths, recently there has been a huge demand for tin cans hence the scarcity of Tin cans in the dump areas. With this development, we buy tins at a wholesale price and sell them at retail prices. International Conservation and Clean up Management (ICCM) on behalf of a construction project buys over 250 tin cans every month at a very good price and this is much better than selling on the street because the price is more beneficial and they also buy in huge quantities. In this way, we are able to realize tangible profits from the business.
Q: WHAT ARE THE SPECIFIC AREAS YOU COLLECT THE TINS FROM?
We collect from 6 miles dump site and sometimes we buy from the boys who bring them to us. Back then we used to go to crossroads hotel to collect tin cans but some other big companies took over and we no longer get tins from crossroads.
Q: HOW HAS THE BUSINESS BENEFITED YOU SO FAR?
Since ICCM started buying tins from us, life has really changed for the better. Now we can afford three meals a day and my daughter enrolled into a technical college with the same money we get from the business.
It was really interesting to meet this lady and see how ICCM could change lives by creating a waste value chain. The lady clearly has managed the project well showing good business skills using her initiative to set up structures for smaller groups to provide her tins from the dump site. I feel privileged to work with ICCM to create such community led projects. We also found out that Chinese companies buy cleaned and cut up plastic bottles at a price of 250mkw (25p) per kg. ICCM will also be helping her by advising labour and cost analysis for her different waste management projects.
As cholera outbreaks exceed in Lilongwe especially in area 36 we can closely link the mismanagement of waste that attributes to ground water pollution and see how this one lady can make such a difference building up social, economic and environmental impacts in her area.