International recognition for Durban-based NGO USE-IT

January 17, 2017

The innovative waste management solutions team of the USE-IT eThekwini Waste Materials Recovery Industry Development Cluster has won local awards in the past.  However, its innovative concepts and activities have now also been recognised internationally. 


The Durban-based NGO was selected as a global finalist in the prestigious The Circulars 2017 awards through the World Economic Forum (WEF).  The awards are an initiative of The Forum of Young Global Leaders and were announced at a prestigious awards ceremony held at the WEF Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland yesterday (16 January 2017). 


USE-IT was one of six finalists in the ‘AB InBev Award for Circular Economy Governments, Cities and Regions’ category, and although it did not win the award, USE-IT MD Chris Whyte says it was an honour to be selected as a finalist for this prestigious award alongside the other finalists - the Scottish Government, the UK's Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP), the China Association of Circular Economy (CACE), Circle Economy from the Netherlands, and the Simon Fraser University of Canada. 


The award was bestowed last night on the Scottish Government, followed by the China Association of Circular Economy as runners-up.  Whyte says that the selection as finalist was ‘somewhat daunting for our small South African-based NGO. Yet,’ he adds, ‘we can hold our heads high, knowing that our achievements and results with our very limited resources would be the envy of many other global agency or initiative.’


Judges impressed

The Circulars 2017 judges’ formal comments included the following remarks: ‘USE-IT have a clear focus on the circular economy, including wider sustainability opportunities and challenges in developing market conditions. Through their successful initiatives and involvement in numerous other organisations, they are successfully driving both environmental and social impact. The judges were particularly impressed with the strong social development focus across USE-IT initiatives, resulting in great impact for an operation limited in size and resources.’


They added: ‘Whilst USE-IT have achieved significant impact given their size of operation, and the challenges associated with developing market conditions, real scale at present will be harder to achieve, and especially in comparison to some of the large, better funded organisations featured in the category. A great programme we would love to see continue to grow and develop.’


Whyte hopes that having been considered for this award and making it to the finalist stage ‘will ultimately assist in growing, expanding and commercialising USE-It’s many circular economy innovations across the continent of Africa and the world to contribute to a more sustainable future for our ailing planet.’


USE-IT's ground-breaking innovations and projects across different waste streams illustrate that the advancement of circular economic principles makes business sense. ‘When added to the additional benefits of landfill diversion, job creation, skills development, environmental clean-up, biodiversity protection, energy preservation, water conservation, carbon reduction, social upliftment and the offset of expensive imports then we are effectively and actively contributing to a sustainable future for all.’


Many local awards

USE-IT, and the companies it has formed to implement some of its waste management solutions, have won numerous local awards in the past:

  • USE-IT won the Eco-Logic Recycling and Waste Management award for work done in 2015.  David Parry Davis, editor of The Enviropaedia, said at the time that ‘the work that so many South Africans are doing to create a more sustainable environment is inspiring,’ and ‘making a measurable difference and creating a more sustainable environment to live in.’

  • The RamBrick™ system, one of USE-IT’s innovations, won the Cape Craft and Design Institute’s Better Living Challenge in the Structural Home category in 2015.

  • Whyte also won the 2016 Individual Merit Certificate and Trophy in the KZN Waste Management Awards for his work done to establish RamBrickTM and other waste management innovations.  The Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa commended him on his ‘constant determination to ensure the successful implementation of projects through communication and understanding between government, business and the market’.

Whyte is justifiably proud of their circular economy-driven innovations: ‘Take RamBrick™, for instance. It is the first, and currently the only, local conventional building material manufactured from 95% recycled materials: waste soil and recycled builder’s rubble. The bricks are composed of 25% mixed inert builder’s waste, 5% cement stabilising agent, and about 70% soil, depending on the soil type available.  This kind of brick makes excellent sense, and is as good as or better than any other for building houses. In our resources-strapped global warming environment, this low-carbon alternative holds the key to sustainable construction.’


Issued on behalf of USE-IT by Lia Labuschagne.

USE-IT contact details:

Tel: +27 31 765 2349

Fax: +27 86 685 5551



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