GreenABLE - Value from waste printer cartridges | Knowledge Hub | Circle Lab
Business case
GreenABLE - Value from waste printer cartridges

greenABLE supports disabled women in the collection and disassembly end-of-life printer cartridges to preserve their valuable components.


Unemployment amongst people with disabilities stands at well over 70% in South Africa. Disabled women are particularly marginalised. Providing them with meaningful employment and empowerment is a challenge. Meanwhile, there is an opportunity to create jobs from the recycling of empty printer cartridges. Less than 10% of the 12 million printer cartridges that enter the South African market each year are recycled after use; the rest simply end up in landfill sites. 


greenABLE diverts empty printer cartridges (and other office e-waste) from landfill by extracting their valuable material. In the process, they create jobs and opportunities for people with disabilities. greenABLE’s specialists dismantle cartridges and separate their components to extract plastic, metals such as mild steel and aluminium. The plastics are granulated, extruded, and pelletised, and, along with the other materials, are sold to manufacturers for recycling. Each year greenAble processes and diverts approximately 30 tonnes of electronic waste from landfills. Some of the recycled plastics are used by another company to produce portable laptop stands with the brand name eezigo. In the past, greenABLE has provided recycled plastics to the South African government’s low-cost housing initiative. greenABLE works with disabled people who have had limited access to high quality education. Its employees are upskilled whilst working at greenABLE, spending 75% of their time working on cartridge recovery, and 25% receiving vocational training to further their education and increase their chances at better job positions. greenABLE’s people are also encouraged to act as agents to start cartridge collection businesses from their neighbourhoods. greenABLE’s employees are sponsored by companies, and the organisation also benefits from this in terms of South Africa’s Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment programme.

Additional information

This case study has been created as part of Footprints Africa's work to build the first ever comprehensive mapping of circular economy initiatives in Africa. This will lay the foundation open-source database that can inspire local initiatives, as well as inform the global dialogue, which is largely focused on the European and American contexts. We are doing this in collaboration with the African Circular Economy Network (ACEN). ACEN's vision is to build a restorative African economy that generates well-being and prosperity inclusive of all its people through new forms of economic production and consumption which maintain and regenerate its environmental resources.

The objective is to build an open-source database featuring 500 cases by the end of 2021, with strong regional representation. These will feature in the Knowledge Hub and are also being mapped by GRID-Arendal. 

Relevant links
Footprints Africa
Footprints Africa
African Circular Economy Network
African Circular Economy Network
Key elements of the circular economy


Circular Economy

Footprints Africa

waste management

south africa


printer cartridges