Hope and Possibility
June 4, 2020
Q+A Session with Social Entrepreneur & Founder of FOONDA, Vuyo Pakade
June 4, 2020

Q+A Session with Deidré Nxumalo-Freeman – Environmentalist and Waste Economy Pioneer

Q&A By • Yanga Ziwele | BKCOB, with Deidré Nxumalo-Freeman

Deidré Nxumalo-Freeman lets us in on her passion and new business venture, Clear Thermal Africa

Q • WE KNOW YOU AS THE FACE, AND THE FORCE BEHIND DNF WASTE AND ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES. PLEASE TELL US A BIT ABOUT DEIDRE NXUMALO FREEMAN.
I was born in Kimberley and relocated to the Eastern Cape when I commenced my BSc studies at Rhodes University in Makhanda, formerly known as Grahamstown. I have worked for numerous organisations that include inter-alia the S.A. Breweries, Amatola Water Board, Mercedes Benz SA and Gibb before venturing on my own to establish DNF Waste and Environmental Services in 2008.

Q • WHEN DID YOU JOIN THE WASTE MANAGEMENT INDUSTRY, AND WHAT INSPIRED YOU?
I have always been passionate about environmental issues. The waste and environmental portfolio was included in my Position Profiles at most of the organisations for which I have worked. I joined the Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa (IWMSA), chairing the Eastern Cape branch prior to being elected to the position of the National President, serving on the national Council. My passion for waste management was ignited during this time. I have always had a yearning to combine my passion for the environment and bringing about social and economic transformation within our communities. Through waste management, I am able to combine these passions as more than 90% of the recyclables we procure at DNF is from vendors in the community – this income supplements their meagre or non-existent incomes.

Q • YOU RECENTLY ANNOUNCED YOUR NEW BUSINESS VENTURE, CLEAR THERMAL AFRICA WHICH IS IN ITS PILOT STAGE. WHAT IS THAT ALL ABOUT, AND WHERE DOES THAT PLACE DNF?
I have always advocated for a holistic approach to Waste Management and that we should always look at the entire value chain of waste. This entails looking at waste in its entirety and applying the Waste Hierarchy by looking at Waste Avoidance, then minimisation, re-use, beneficiation, recycling, thermal treatment and as a last resort disposal.

DNF has primarily focussed on 2 areas of waste management, being Waste Beneficiation and Waste Recycling. We beneficiate Glass to produce Glass Sand that has numerous uses and creates more local employment. Clear Thermal Africa was borne from the need for local multinational organisations to reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfill. We investigated various options to address the needs of these multinationals and came across the patented Malaysian EcoAsher. The EcoAsher is a revolutionary self-powered, non-combustion system which uses the Plasma Technology to reduce the volume of waste to 4 % ash in 1 – 2 hours without using any external power source.

Q • WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU FACED AS BUSINESS WOMAN, WHICH YOU THINK HAVE CONTRIBUTED POSITIVELY TO YOUR ABILITY TO THRIVE?
The volatility in the waste industry has meant that I have had to constantly re-invent the business model and look for opportunities to optimise our business efficiencies as well as critically look for opportunities within the current value chain. The result being the birth of Clear Thermal Africa and the endless possibilities in this new venture.

Q • SPEAKING OF CHALLENGES…HOW HAVE YOU BEEN AFFECTED BY THE COVID-19 CRISIS, IN BUSINESS, AND HOW ARE YOU DEALING WITH IT?
The COVID-19 crisis has impacted DNF’s recycling business very negatively. Numerous industries were closed, even though we were allowed to operate as an Essential Services business. We have lost more than 90% of our revenue since lockdown commenced and the possibility that this situation could extend to July / August is very real for our industry. On a positive note, our Packaching Mobile Buyback centre commenced operations during Level 4 of the lockdown and has provided much needed income relief to impoverished households. We are grateful to Polyco who have assisted our Packaching vendors. The pandemic does however present opportunities for Clear Thermal Africa s as we will be in a position to thermally destruct the industrial PPE such generated by industry pending the results of our air emission monitoring.

MESSAGE TO WOMEN IN BUSINESS DURING THESE TRYING TIMES? As women in business we have to be resilient during this time as our staff and families depend on us to be their pillar of strength. It is important for us to have an anchor to be able to remain grounded. To me knowing that God is my ever-present source of strength helps me to get through these tough times. The support of family, staff, friends and colleagues are crucial and we should never take this for granted.