Masi women turn waste into great opportunities

Constance Dubula and Babalwa Nkosiyedwa are turning telephone directories into art and craft with their range of table items and wall hangings made from rolled paper.

While the City copes with what it calls “unforeseen challenges” as a result of a hiatus between the company who had the weekly wheelie bin and recycling collection services until June 30 and the new company which is due to start on October 1, others have more immediate challenges such as having lost their jobs as a result. Two of them are now turning waste into opportunities.

Constance Dubula and Babalwa Nkosiyedwa worked for False Bay Recycling which, until the end of June, used to sort the recyclable material collect- ed.

Both women live in Masiphumelele. Constance lives with her husband, four children and one grandchild. Her eldest daughter is in matric. Babalwa also comes from Masiphumelele and has two children.

They used to sort the recyclables into its various components.

“They used to sort very fast!”said Yolanda Valentine who with her brother has strong local roots and have for many years been involved with False Bay Recycling, whose premises are in Lekkerwater Road. They ran it with their father Evan until he passed away last year.

Although the loss of the contract to sort the waste is a blow, Yolanda is not letting it crush her optimism – and her plans for her former staff.

“You don’t always need a boss to put bread on the table, “she said, looking fondly at Constance and Babalwa who she now views as interns she is training in business.

“I did some research about newspaper craft, we had a whole lot of telephone directories and I thought – why not. I saw some pictures and I used my common sense.”

After a lot of experimentation, Yolanda came up with some ideas – rolling directory pages to make saleable items such as African-styled dolls, table mats, table decorations, wine bottle coolers.

The unpainted items are surprisingly colourful – with blues and yellows, colours that are unnoticed when paging through a telephone directory. Some of the table mats and coasters are left plain, others are painted gold or silver. Elegant roses are among the table items or wall hangings they make – some red, some gold or silver – and the dolls are painted in vibrant colours. All the items are surprisingly sturdy and durable.

“Once I could do it I could teach them,”she said. “Now we are working on a system for mass production.

“The idea is to start with small sales, to target B&Bs, curio shops, arts and crafts stalls.”

Although Constance and Babalwa talk 10 to the dozen when alone, says Yolanda, it seems being interviewed makes them shy. But Yolanda says the women are very eager and are at their desks – wood on packing crates – at 9am every day.

She teaches them basic bookkeeping and how to keep an eye on costs.

“Look at this – two, three months ago they would never have thought they could make such things from scratch!”said Yolanda.

They have had their first sales and some of their placemats are now going to New York.

“Ladies!”she said, looking at the two women. “Next year I’m going to make an application for your learners’ licences. We’re thinking big. It can be done.”

If you would like to find out more, contact Yolanda on or 083 273 3080.