A 73 year old pensioner from Kwazulu-Natal has proved that age is just a number. Phetheni Sibiya has collected more than 42 000 tons of bottles in only 16 months for her recycling project in eSikhaleni, KwaZulu-Natal.
The Zululand Observer reported that the lively Gogo from the heart of eSikhaleni started the recycling project in May 2015.
Many in her community thought the idea was silly, they even openly laughed, shared gossip and teased her. But laughter soon turned to envy for many when her hard work finally paid off.
The pensioner collected bottles everyday from the community using her wheelbarrow and in the 16 months, formed an amazing relationship with tavern and bottle store owners who supported her initiative and constantly kept bottles for her.
“People used to laugh when I pushed my wheelbarrow and collected the bottles. Today I am overjoyed my hard work is being rewarded,” she said.
“I took pride in what I was doing and people love to talk, but I really didn’t give them any second thought. I had the emotional support of my husband, 86, and niece, and that’s all I needed.”
When Sibiya started, she was 71 years old, a retired domestic worker and a diabetic.
“I don’t get sick anymore and not even taking my medication. Being active helped me stay in shape,” she said.
The determined Gogo successfully collected over 42 000 tons of bottles which were packed by herself in more than 42 huge bags of crushed glass and had to be lifted by a crane for transport.
Sibiya watched with pride as representatives from Console Glass loaded her collection in their massive truck, with a promise of a huge reward to follow.
Sibiya was introduced to recycling by a late friend, and after she died last year, her niece helped her find a recipient.
“My motivation was not money, but now I am happy I have some coming my way,” she laughed.
“I have other bottles and hope they will be collected soon. After the last batch, I want to relax at home and enjoy my golden years.”
Sibiya’s work has proved nothing is impossible and that hard work and dedication pay off.
“These youngsters who sit and do nothing the whole day don’t really have an excuse. If at my age I can do such work, they can do more.”