How recycling boosts growth in jobs and factories
Recycling has been transformed from a worthy environmentally-focused activity into a fully-fledged business sector that provides jobs for thousands and generates billions for the economy every year.
Recycling is unique in that it already enjoyed a strong positive reputation before it became big business, says John Hunt, MD of Mpact Recycling, part of the paper and plastics packaging group Mpact.
Next week (from 16 to 20 September) is National Clean-up and Recycling Week, with Friday 19 September focusing specifically on recycling.
Hunt says the recycling sector needs further tangible support if it is to continue translating positive feelings into activity that generates growth and jobs.
Explains Hunt: It would be fair to say that pretty much everyone agrees that recycling is a good thing that should be supported. And in fact South Africa has an overall paper recycling rate of 62%, which is quite high by global standards.
But there's clearly room to do more in spite of the fact that South Africans largely agree about the benefits of recycling. To boost recycling further we should treat it as much more than doing a good thing.
Recycling must be recognised as a strong and growing contributor to our economy. This is a significant business sector that supports about 100 000 jobs and is worth several billion rand a year to the country, says Hunt.
And uniquely among business sectors, the value of the contribution made by recycling can be measured in both economic and environmental terms, he argues.
We start with individual pieces of material that seem to be worth nothing, and by the time we've collected many tons of material it has a value and a price that can be charged as input material to factories using this waste as a raw material in their manufacturing processes, says Hunt. This is demonstrated by Mpact's own use of the waste paper we collect in the manufacture of our recycled-based packaging.
The value chain of recycling stretches from collections of recyclables, to sorting, baling, transporting and delivery to factories. Recyclable material is processed and used the process of manufacturing new paper and plastic packaging, as well as in the metals and glass sectors.
At the same time material that would have gone to landfill sites is diverted, while there is also a net benefit in terms of reduced carbon emissions.
Hunt points out that there are already in place significant systems and infrastructure for the collection of recyclable material.
Private companies such as Mpact as well as a number of local authorities run collection operations in addition to normal waste removal. But this infrastructure, especially the transport part, can be costly to keep going if there is not enough material available for recycling.
Every home and office and other place of business can boost recycling. There are a handful of basic guidelines for separating out different kinds of paper, plastic and so on. Beyond that, it's easy to make recycling a small part of your day at home and at work, says Hunt.
Mpact Recycling currently collects its famous Ronnie Bags from almost 200 000 homes in Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni and Tshwane. Collections are done every week from the kerbside on the same day as the municipal refuse collections.
The company also operates collection points at schools, churches and community organisations. These groups are paid by the ton for the material they collect, thereby boosting their fund-raising efforts.
The Mpact Recycling web site has details of collection points that are located around South Africa. Details of these collection points can be found at www.mpactrecycling.co.za, or call the Mpact Recycling toll-free number at 0800 022 112.
Tulisa Park: 011 538 8600
Midrand: 011 315 8450
Pretoria West: 012 380 0920
Springs: 011 360 4460
Parow: 021 931 5106
Richards Bay: 035 751 1722
Durban: 031 274 6600