EML Students Transform Community Through Recycling Initiative

July 18, 2013
For a more multimedia experience of this initiative, please watch this video.
Three students from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business Executive Master’s in Leadership (EML) program have been working to transform a resource center in a poverty-stricken township of South Africa into a new recycling facility in the center of the community. 
As part of EML’s global business experience, a student-consulting project designed to assist an overseas company, students Cherian Thomas, Tim Powers, and Ted Fahy are encouraging entrepreneurship in Langa Township by educating the community on the value of waste.  With a mission to improve the local economy, the students felt it was imperative to teach through example and are partnering with local recycling companies to educate the community on recycled commodities. Through educational workshops, the teams will discuss how to commoditize waste as well as best practices in managing cash flow, collective bargaining and logistics.
Moved by Langa’s staggering unemployment rate of more than 50 percent, the township’s high crime rates, constant housing relocations for its citizens and challenging health issues such as HIV and AIDS, the students saw the opportunity to help rejuvenate and improve the quality of life in the area. 
Recognizing the importance of global market research, the students studied the culture, customs and psychologies of the Langa Township to better understand cross-cultural negotiations and develop a strategic business plan that would suit the goals of the initiative and the values of the community. 
“The outcome of the project will significantly benefit the people of Langa and has the power to shape cross-cultural partnerships around the world,” said Thomas, who has significant professional experience in paper manufacturing, procurement and waste management.  
With industry insight and relevant professional experience, the students pursued a partnership opportunity with Sappi Southern Africa, part of Sappi Limited, a global leader in pulp and paper headquartered in South Africa.  The waste paper from the township project will contribute to the raw material for Sappi’s 100% recovered fibre Cape Kraft Paper Mill in Cape Town. Sappi Refibre, the secondary fibre division for Sappi Southern Africa, has provided expertise and assisted in coordinating the infrastructure for the HLAZA (Green) Innovation Center, a renovated buyback center where local residents will be able to sell their recyclables at fair market value based on relevant  ZAR based price per kilogram for the respective recyclable commodity that they have collected. The more recyclables that collectors secure on a daily basis the more they will ultimately earn.
Once finalized, the team will construct a blueprint for a fully functional waste collection company and has already selected a local entrepreneur to oversee the HLAZA Innovation Center.  To ensure the sustainability of this new venture, the Georgetown students are working with Sappi ReFibre, K & C Waste, CONSOL, PETCO & Collect-A-Can to serve as the primary buyers of the recovered material.  Once sorted at the HLAZA Innovation Center, each buyer will collect recycled commodities – benefiting residents, businesses and the overall environment.  
The sustainable partnerships between Georgetown University, Sappi Southern Africa, and the Langa Township can serve as a prototype for educating and recycling across varying cultures around the world.  
Marc Snyder, Regional Manager Sappi ReFibre commented, “Sappi is happy to be a part of a job creation project in Langa as the community benefits through income generation from waste collection and recycling. Through landfill diversion the community will also experience a cleaner and healthier environment. Sappi’s Cape Kraft Mill uses 100% waste paper in its paper production.
In an effort to maintain and sustain the HLAZA Innovation Center, Professor Reinsch, Director of the EML Program, and the students already are developing a curriculum for future EML courses relevant to this effort.  As Thomas, Powers and Fahy lay the blueprint for a sustainable business in Langa, future Georgetown leaders will be committed to educate, clean the environment, and encourage global entrepreneurship for years to come.