Could the Circular Economy be the Solution to Youth Unemployment?

The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) has completed a new study on the benefits of the circular economy in South Africa.
Findings show that major economic and environmental benefits can be gained from turning ‘waste into worth’ – using the Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of South Africa (REDISA) as a case study as to how this has already successfully been realised.
The report findings are timely as the jobless crisis is particularly acute among young people aged 15 to 25, where the unemployment rate exceeds 50 percent. This is worse than that experienced in many other emerging markets; South Africa is home to 0.7 percent of the world’s young people but alarmingly has almost two percent of the world’s unemployed youth.
Should South Africa do more to ‘monetise’ the waste products currently being deposited in landfills and other dumps, this would create local jobs and support the emergence of local entrepreneurs, while cleaning up the environment.
The Circular Economies - Turning waste into worth report provides a fact - base to inform the choices that need to be made going forward, it presents for the first time, a vision of how the circular economy could overcome the unemployment crisis in the country.
For REDISA, the case study dealt with in the IRR report, the circular economy means balancing economic growth, infrastructure development and creating small business and job opportunities - while lowering our emissions and overall impact on the environment. Environmental degradation and resource depletion threaten the sustainability of economic growth in the developed world, and build enormous pressures in the developing world as it strives to match the West’s prodigal lifestyle. Both issues can be addressed by the circular economy if the generation of waste is reduced, resources are reused and recycled, and recycling initiatives are made economically attractive.
According to REDISA, chief executive officer (CEO), Hermann Erdmann, “On a planet of finite resources, the circular economy is not optional, it is inevitable. In under three years we have developed a circular economy within the tyre industry in South Africa and have seen tangible results: over 2 600 new jobs, and over 200 SMMEs developed and supported. The implementation of circular economies will lead to unprecedented opportunities, the creation of reverse logistics networks, new processes and new industries using the recovered resources.”

IRR CEO Frans Cronjé says: “The jobless crisis in South Africa is acute with more than 50 percent of 15 to 25 - year-olds not in education, employment or training. Youth unemployment in South Africa is also worse than that experienced in many other emerging markets, for the country is home to 0.7 percent of the world’s young people but has almost 2 percent of the world’s unemployed youth. The process of collecting, transporting, and recycling waste could generate hundreds of thousands of sustainable jobs and viable small businesses, thereby tackling one of South Africa’s greatest challenges - joblessness.”
REDISA has since its inception stood on the foundation that we can turn our ‘Waste into Worth’, that everything used still maintains its value and that waste can be organised to produce jobs for thousands of people as well as substantially reduce carbon emissions into the atmosphere. REDISA has therefore taken on its shoulders the task of incubating a whole industry, starting with tyres as a proof of concept.
To read the full report, refer to
Key steps to introducing a circular economy approach successfully:

  • Monies collected need to be ring-fenced, and not included in the fiscus;
  • Organisations collecting and processing waste should be independent private sector companies;
  • The key to success lies in a public-private collaboration;
  • The State needs to provide an enabling policy landscape, but not implement; and
  • An efficient IT system to manage appointing, paying, assisting, and overseeing the supply chain network.

  About REDISA
REDISA, by implementing a circular economy model, has already been able to support the South African economy through 80 percent of the waste management fees collected invested back into industry, specifically focusing on building, growing and supporting the tyre recycling industry.
The world-first REDISA Plan has gained accolades and recognition both locally and internationally and is contributing to the growing recognition of the need to implement circular economy approaches to ensure sustainable economic development across the world.
About IRR
The IRR produces, disseminates, and promotes the new ideas that South African policy makers need in order to promote the investment and economic growth that will draw poor people into jobs and build a more prosperous South Africa.
For more information contact:
Mienke Steytler
Tel: 011 482 7221 ext. 2003
For more about the Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of South Africa, refer to
For more about the South African Institute of Race Relations, refer to
To view other NGO press releases, refer to

Date published: 
Monday, 2 November, 2015
Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of South Africa

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