#EcoTravel: Recycling initiatives sees SA ' growing greener generations'

Cape Town - Pitfalls of our consumerist society almost always lead back to waste and by-products of everyday things use and then discard.

With that said, businesses and consumers alike are being more mindful in their approach, with a few making considerable, effective change to recycle for future generations. 

'South Africans are recycling more than ever before'

Plastics SA released its latest plastics recycling figures and Anton Hanekom, Executive Director for Plastics SA says the figures reveal that South Africans are recycling more plastics than ever before.

The annual survey into plastics recycling for the period ending December 2016, reveals that there is a growing awareness of recycling and public pressure to recycle – resulting in more post-consumer and post-industrial plastics being made available for reuse.

“In 2016, 1,144 million tons of recyclable plastic entered the waste stream, of which 41,8% was recycled in South Africa based on input tonnages. This is a year-on-year increase of 5,9%,” says Hanekom. 

WATCH: Cycling 4 continents in search of effective plastic recycling solutions

In Cape Town, the solid waste landfill sites are filling up rapidly, with the City of Cape Town predicting that, in the near future, waste will need to be transported to sites outside of the municipal boundaries at a significant cost.  

Another alternative would be to develop waste minimisation facilities, and these will come with substantial land requirements, says the City.  

In a bid to tackle a growing environmental problem caused by waste, one Boland-based company is making a major recycling difference. Reliance, in collaboration with the City of Cape Town, has reached a major milestone in the 'war against waste' in the province, by diverting 20 million cubic metres of garden refuse from landfills, and turning it into compost. 

SEE: PICS: New plastic gobbling drone pilot project to see 'a plastic-free V&A Waterfront' 

The compost provider takes care of the City's green waste by removing 80% of the green garden refuse and putting millions of tons of organic compost back into the depleted soil of the Western Cape and beyond. This achievement, according to the City, is in line with the Western Cape Government's plan to divert all organic waste from landfills by 2027.

Under its mission to "Grow Greener Generations", the company is said to achieve this by getting involved in the community, through sponsorships, tree-planting projects and developing communal food gardens.   

ALSO SEE: WATCH: Kenyans want to sail recycled flip-flops boat to SA

Eddie Redelinghuys, founder of Reliance, says he believes that living soils, alive with microbial activity and rich in organic matter, can feed plants that can in return feed people and animals. 

"Much of the organic waste being landfilled could also supply energy to be used as fuel," says Redelinghuys.

"This year Reliance will replenish and rehabilitate the soils in and around South Africa through the different initiatives and projects they are involved in and has invited local communities to join the compost challenge for the future of the country's environment."

Recycled tonnages grew by 35% since 2011 

Plastics SA says during the annual 2016 period survey, a growing number of organisations and consumer groups became actively involved in upstream collection efforts, resulting in a positive impact on the number of plastics that were collected and recycled. Recycled tonnages grew by 35% since 2011.

“The increase in recycling that was recorded was not as a result of increased plastic products that entered the market. In fact, 1,518 million tons of virgin polymer was converted into products in South Africa during this period – a mere 1,9% increase compared to 2015,” says Hanekom. 

See graph below:

Plastics SA

“We cannot afford to rest on our laurels or ease up on our recycling efforts. Not only are brand owners and international organisations under increasing pressure to meet their sustainability targets, but plastics recycling also forms an integral part of the circular economy”, says Hanekom.

SEE: China's import ban on recycling waste causes pile-up in West

Plastics SA has identified the following priorities that will continue to drive the industry’s recycling efforts:

1. Separation at source is essential. 

Recyclable waste needs to be made available to the recycling value chain as close as possible to where it reaches its end of life. Local government and NGOs need to make it as effortless as possible for the householder to get rid of recyclables in the format that is acceptable to the collectors and waste management companies.

2. One-way packaging must be designed for recycling. 

In a country where there is a vibrant mechanical recycling industry, recyclability must form part of the brand owner product design checklist.

3. Closer cooperation between role players. 

Waste producers, recyclers and brand owners need to work closer with regard to understanding which packaging can be recycled, how to meet the needs and demands of brand owners and getting all the parties concerned to commit to a circular economy.

4. Greater awareness of recycling through education. 

Better knowledge and improved understanding are required regarding which products can be recycled, how the collection and recycling process works and the end-products that are generated.

ALSO SEE: #AfriTravel: Kenya bans the use of plastic bags

“Plastics recycling does, and will continue to, offer sustainable solutions for plastic waste," says Hanekom. "Whilst we are working tirelessly to satisfy the legislative requirements and zero waste ambitions aimed at reducing our carbon footprint, we also need to invest in development and innovation if we are to have plastics manufacturing and recycling industries that are sound and robust." 

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