Latest Posts

Adapting for Impact: REDI Recycling’s Shift from Plastic to E-Waste
logo for print

Adapting for Impact: REDI Recycling’s Shift from Plastic to E-Waste

In the dynamic world of waste management and recycling, the story of REDI Recycling, a start-up social enterprise in North Macedonia, embodies the essence of adaptive management in the face of fluctuating market conditions. This narrative unfolds with the unexpected downturn in plastic prices, challenging the initial business model of REDI Recycling and prompting a strategic pivot towards non-hazardous e-waste collection, supported by RECONOMY. Despite numerous agendas, strategies, and government policies, waste management and recycling in the Western Balkans are difficult sectors for market actors to navigate in. With fluctuating prices and low consumer awareness, versatility and creativity are defining factors that make the difference between companies that succeed and those that fail. The following illustrates the adaptability required in modern environmental and social entrepreneurship.

How it all started?

The inception of REDI Recycling was driven by the goal of integrating informal waste collectors, predominantly from the Roma community, into the formal waste management sector in North Macedonia. This initiative not only aimed to mitigate the social and health risks faced by these workers but also contribute to environmental conservation by improving the collection and recycling of valuable materials. The enterprise sought to establish a structured system for primary waste separation in households and companies – a system known as “separation at source”, followed by regular collection done by REDI Recycling staff. This model aimed at fostering inclusive growth and reducing unemployment among disadvantaged groups. For more information about RECONOMY’s support to REDI Recycling in the inception phase, please click here.

However, in 2023, the enterprise encountered a significant hurdle when the global price of plastics plummeted. This unexpected market shift rendered the business model of REDI Recycling, heavily reliant on the collection and recycling of non-hazardous waste materials, including plastics, economically unsustainable. The decline in revenue threatened the continuation of field activities, putting the enterprise’s mission and the livelihoods of its dedicated collectors at risk.

Adaptive management put into practice

In response to this crisis, REDI Recycling, paused its operations for 3 months to reassess the market and the business model exploring viable alternatives. RECONOMY, recognizing the potential of REDI Recycling to influence the waste management market and its commitment to inclusive growth, supported this phase of adaptation. The partnership’s strength lay in the shared vision of fostering environmental sustainability and social inclusion, particularly for the disadvantaged communities.

After reassessing the business model and exploring alternatives, REDI Recycling decided to pivot towards collecting electronic and electronic waste (e-waste), an emerging and lucrative segment of waste management. This decision demonstrated the capacity of the organization to adapt to a changing market while remaining true to its social goals and its forward-looking vision. This shift was facilitated by a collaborative partnership with an e-waste warehouse, which agreed to compensate REDI Recycling for its collection services. This strategic move not only opened new revenue streams for REDI Recycling but also addressed the growing environmental concern over e-waste disposal. Shifting towards electronic waste is timely and comes at a critical moment. The global state of e-waste remains a significant environmental challenge, with devices becoming ever-present in our daily lives, leading to escalating levels of discarded electronics. With inadequate infrastructure for proper disposal and recycling, much of this waste ends up in landfills, posing grave health and environmental risks. In North Macedonia, while efforts have been made to address e-waste management, challenges persist. Despite regulations in place, including the Law on Waste Management, enforcement and public awareness remain insufficient.

The adaptive management approach adopted by REDI Recycling is a testament to its resilience in the face of market volatility. By embracing change and seeking innovative solutions, they ensured the continuity of their operations and the fulfillment of their social and environmental objectives. The transition to non-hazardous e-waste collection not only revitalized the business model of REDI Recycling but also expanded its impact by addressing a critical environmental issue.

What the future holds?

The ambitious goal of REDI Recycling to target 400 buildings by the end of April 2024, with aspirations to scale up to 1000 buildings by year-end, reflects its commitment to growth and scalability. This expansion strategy is aligned with the goals of RECONOMY and the EU Green Agenda for the Western Balkans, which emphasize the formalization of the waste management sector and the integration of informal collectors into the formal economy. Moreover, exploring diverse waste streams presents new job opportunities within the sector.

The story of REDI Recycling is an illustration of how adaptive management can enable social enterprises to overcome market challenges and continue to make a positive impact on society and the environment. It serves as an inspiring example for other enterprises facing similar challenges, emphasizing the value of resilience and innovation in achieving sustainable success.

RECONOMY’s ongoing partnership with REDI extends beyond its initial focus, encompassing additional initiatives aimed at fostering job opportunities for women and youth, including the most disadvantaged and excluded. These endeavors are designed to empower these groups, enabling them to embrace digital tools and thrive in regional contexts.



Emilija Jovanova Stoilkova

Emilija Jovanova Stoilkova is the Regional Manager for the Western Balkans at RECONOMY. She previously served as the Knowledge Management and Learning Manager. Her previous experience includes work in skills development, lifelong learning, inclusive market development, labor market insertion, private sector engagement, and workforce development. Emilija is passionate about knowledge management and continuous learning and education.

Valon Xoxa

Valon Xoxa is the Program Officer for the Western Balkans at RECONOMY. He has over 10 years of experience in project management and implementation with international development partners in the region. His expertise in monitoring, coordination, and integration of projects has been instrumental in successful implementation of activities related to employment via Active Labour Market Programmes in Kosovo.

Evgenija Krstevska

Evgenija Krstevska is the Program Officer for the Western Balkans at RECONOMY. She has experience in project management, focusing on environmental protection and climate change. She is passionate about working with private sector development while twinning green and digital transformation and creating job opportunities and skills.

Paulo Rodrigues

Paulo Rodrigues is the Program Manager of RECONOMY. He holds an MA degree in Business Administration and an MAS in Development and Cooperation. Paulo is a private sector development expert with several years of experience, including as an entrepreneur himself. He has worked and advised multiple projects, in multiple countries, that promote inclusive economic development. His key expertise lies in the design and implementation of the market systems development approach and on the nexus of humanitarian response and development.

Sabin Selimi

Sabin Selimi works for Helvetas as Knowledge Management, Learning, and Communications Manager at RECONOMY. His previous experience includes working in communication advisory roles for the government and various international development projects, with experience in the Balkans.


Comments (0)

Join the conversation

Leave a comment