People collecting bottles on the street with home-made trolleys are a common sight.

Sifiso Ngobese, 32, observed their daily hazards and decided to help them. He founded Unconventional Media in 2012, and its Amabokgereza programme enables informal waste-pickers to work safely, efficiently and maximise their revenue.

They are barely visible in the dark, and their trolleys regularly fall apart and have no braking system, so his programme provides safe, light-reflective trolleys that are strong and durable. Plus, they are covered with advertisements, double as mobile billboards, and the waste-pickers take a cut of the advertising revenue.

Unconventional Media has also teamed up with a buy-back centre that buys bottles from the waste-pickers and monitors and stores the trolleys and advertisements. Ngobese, who lived in a shack for five years, knows the difficulties facing an entrepreneur from a poor background.

At first, his project was self-funded, but in 2013 he got financing from the Industrial Development Corporation’s Black Management Forum Sefa Award and the National Youth Development Agency. Ngobese is currently engaging municipalities and working with Absa to formalise and train the waste-pickers in entrepreneurial skills, to “give them a sense of dignity”.

Find Ngobese on Twitter: @ngobese_sifiso