Turning trash into cash

A dedicated value chain for recyclable trash—that’s what young people in Zambia have created with their Trash4Cash project. Through a German-Zambian youth exchange program with DACHSER trainees, the Zambian team learned a great deal about German recycling depots and returned home ready to turn their trash into cash. DACHSER supported the establishment of the recycling system together with the international children’s aid organization terre des hommes.

The young people of Trash4Cash collect recyclable trash, such as PET bottles, and then sell it.

It’s seven o’clock in the morning in the Zambian city of Livingstone. Theresa is moving from house to house, explaining to the people in her neighborhood how garbage separation and the Trash4Cash recycling system work. The residents give the young woman their separated recyclables, such as PET bottles, and she weighs them. The more they weigh, the more cash the households receive. By now, the project has become an additional source of income for many people, which explains why word is spreading fast. Once the Trash4cash team have collected and compressed the garbage, they sell it to a company that processes it. The profits allow the team to support their community and finance further initiatives.

The genesis of Trash4Cash

Theresa is one of around 15 collectors working for Trash4Cash, a recycling system launched by a collective of young people in Zambia. They received financial and conceptional assistance from DACHSER, the aid organization terre des hommes, and the Livingstone city administration. How did these young people come up with this idea? “As part of the German-Zambian youth exchange, we visited several recycling depots, where we learned about a number of recycling methods. When we got back home to Zambia, we thought: we could do that, too,” explains Jacqueline Shamanga, one of the initiators.

Together with terre des hommes, DACHSER has been championing the causes of children and young adults since 2005. Another example of the logistics provider’s commitment to social causes is its Young Professionals program for trainees. Building on the UN Sustainable Development Goal of “Sustainable Cities and Communities,” the DACHSER Young Professionals investigate the topic of sustainability over a two-year period. One of the projects to emerge from this activity is Trash4Cash.

Clean water, healthy people

Garbage separation also plays a key role in public health in Zambia. “When I was little, I suffered from a condition called schistosomiasis, which is caused by drinking contaminated water,” says Levy Muwana. “My story is by no means unique: in my community, many children suffer from diseases that stem from the mismanagement of garbage.” This is why he feels the Trash4Cash project is so important. “It combines entrepreneurial spirit and initiative with action to protect the environment,” Muwana says.

Watch the young people from this Zambian collective explain more about Trash4Cash in this video

Contact Thais Meroni