Polystyrene recycling in South Africa showed increased growth in 2016, contrary to international reports that suggest the material has been “challenging to recycle”, or in some instances, is unrecyclable.
The reprocessing of expanded and high impact polystyrene increased by 106% between 2013 and 2015, according to the Polystyrene Packaging Council’s (PSPC) director, Adri Spangenberg. This increase was as a result of two reasons: more end-markets were developed and knowledge of successful polystyrene recycling spread.
“We are still awaiting the official recycling figures for 2016, but early indications show that approximately 3,600 tonnes of recycled polystyrene was added to the traditional recycling figures – making this our best year to date,” Spangenberg said.
“We have managed to prove that polystyrene can successfully be recovered from households and industries by working closely with waste management companies and municipalities,” she added.
Polystyrene is widely being used by spaza shops, take-away vendors, cafeterias and supermarkets around the country.
Once recycled, new items are created, and in turn, boosts job creation in many different industries.
“Last year alone, 2,036 tons of polystyrene was successfully recycled for use in lightweight concrete through our Project Build,” Spangeberg said.
These projects use recycled, post-consumer polystyrene for large commercial and residential construction projects around the country.
Another area that has seen considerable growth in the amount of recycled polystyrene is the home décor industry. More than 1,377 tonnes of expanded and high impact polystyrene was recycled last year for use in picture frames, cornices and curtain rods through the PSPC’s Project Dècor.
“Apart from the fact that it helped divert polystyrene from landfill, we are particularly pleased that this is another market where jobs and products were manufactured locally as opposed to relying on cheap imports from the far East that have a detrimental impact on our own markets,” Spangenberg said.
Plans for 2017
Looking ahead at 2017, the PSPC said it will continue to promote the use and recycling of polystyrene to South African industries.
“The Davos World Economic Forum gathering released their report in which they called for strategies to dramatically increase recycling of plastic packaging from the current 14% to 70%,” Spangenberg said.
Spangenberg believes that plastic material is also worth a lot more when used in infrastructure applications, and should therefore be re-used and recycled into building projects that will benefit many generations to come.
Recycling polystyrene is also key to reclaiming useful carbons and reusing valuable resource, the PSPC said.
Spangenberg concluded by emphasising that polystyrene recycling helps create jobs, revenue opportunities and opportunities to innovate new products “in a true, circular economy model”.
Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies says government’s incentives have helped to leverage R57 billion in investments over the past year.
The Minister said this when he tabled the department’s Budget Vote at the National Assembly on Wednesday.
Addressing members of Parliament after briefing the media earlier in the day, the Minister said the tax incentives amounting to R10 billion have resulted in long-term investments that have saved struggling factories.
“…Across the Department of Trade and Industry’s (Dti) main incentive schemes, R57.1 billion in private-sector investment is being leveraged as a result of the Dti having provided incentive support during the last financial year of approximately R10 billion.
“This support is provided to a wide range of local and domestic companies, one thousand seven hundred and seventy in the last financial year to be exact,” he said.
The Minister said he has visited many of these factories in the past year and he can report that these government contracts have created a mood of optimism on the shop floors and factories.
“Industries that appeared to have no future and where assets were being run-down prior to being sold for scrap have been revitalised and long-term investments – including in machinery, people and skills – are being made which augur well for these industries’ future,” he said.
More focus on creating black industrialists
Minister Davies said due to a continued shortage of black industrialists, the department would focus on supporting qualifying black industrialists in the year ahead.
The Minister said it remained an impossible task to build an inclusive and stable society when some sectors and industries remain largely untransformed, and where established sectors are perceived as monopolising access to government resources.
“In the coming year, we will focus on supporting qualifying black industrialists through access to funding, incentives, soft loans, market access, procurement opportunities, training and capacity building, matchmaking and information sharing, research and innovation, assistance to meet quality standards, productivity enhancement support, and economic infrastructure.
“This support will be provided through collaboration with development finance institutions, state-owned companies, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the South African Bureau of Standards, along with other private and public institutions.
He said about 50 applications have already been received and are being considered by the department, covering sectors such as Agro-processing, Chemicals, Cosmetics, Pharmaceuticals, Mineral beneficiating sectors, Oil & gas, Automotive, Rail, Clothing & Textiles, Green Energy, Capital Equipment, and ICT.
“We are grateful for the many messages of support we are receiving from the private-sector and – increasingly – firm offers to collaborate and partner with Government to make the Black Industrialist Programme a success,” he said.
Localisation central to IPAP implementation
Meanwhile, the Minister said in a few weeks’ time, the department would release the 8th iteration of its Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP) covering the period 2016/7-2018/9.
He said one of the important transversal policy levers identified in IPAP is local procurement.
“Thus far we have designated more than 16 sectors or products where public entities are required to procure from products produced in this country. These include rail rolling stock, work wear and uniforms, and furniture.
“The three latest designations came into force on 21 October 2015. These are conveyance pipes, transformers and steel sub-structures.
“I am happy to report that we are now beginning to see real impact of these commitments to local procurement in a number of industries,” he said.
As commodity prices plummet, opponents are indicting recycling as too impractical and costly. The debate came to a head late last year when The New York Times posed the ultimate question: Is recycling worth it?
Its answer: probably not. But most of us working in the waste, recycling, public policy, environmental and health fields would respond with a full-throated, “Yes, it is.”
Recycling — hand in hand with other advanced waste management practices — plays a vital role in shutting down the true enemy of the environment: landfills.
The primary argument against recycling is an economic one: the costs don’t justify the benefits. In down commodity markets, this line of reasoning goes, the cost of recovering materials (and energy) is higher than the cost to produce and use virgin materials.
Most of us in the waste and recycling community would agree that recycling should stand on its own. And it’s true that recycling may not always pencil out by itself. However, this math overlooks the enormous impact of externalities such as carbon and methane emissions, damage to public health and loss of resources. Even at today’s recycling rates, the avoided greenhouse gas emissions alone represent $8 billion to $12 billion a year in avoided future costs associated with climate change.
There are many reasons, however, to continue recycling in down markets when sluggish global growth drives down raw material prices.
First, the materials have intrinsic value, which will increase when the market recovers. Because the success or failure of recycling programs hinge on human awareness, behavior and habit, it’s counterproductive to start and stop recycling programs too frequently, leading to wasted resources.
Second, experience shows that when we stop innovating during difficult times, we fall behind, impeding progress when the good times return. Like commodities, waste generation cycles often mirror that of the global economy; the upside is that down cycles force us to find ways to increase productivity, brainstorm new business models, and drive down costs to stay competitive.
It’s time to think of recycling and zero-landfill programs as critical components of a broader strategy for end-of-life materials and important weapons in the fight against climate change, water contamination and various other environmental and social challenges.
This approach begins with the “reduce and reuse” mantra, where reducing demand for new products and materials reduces carbon emissions, pollution and waste associated with production, transportation and disposal. Recycling is the next leg of the journey, and serves to recover value from goods already made while avoiding the use of virgin materials.
For waste that can’t be effectively recycled, we move to an oft-maligned strategy that is widely successful around the world: responsibly burning waste to generate electricity.
Recovering energy from non-recycled waste offers myriad benefits — from the obvious reduction of unappealing landfills, to offsetting a ton of carbon for each ton of waste burned, to generating enough electricity to power a million homes in just the U.S. each year. Most people don’t realize waste-to-energy plants generate more energy than many major solar and wind projects.
Working together, and following countries like Austria, Germany and the Netherlands, all with exemplary recycling rates augmented with energy recovery, we could save over 260 million tons of CO2 annually — equivalent to closing over 60 coal-fired power plants. We could save the energy equivalent of 14 percent of our imported oil, all while generating 350,000 new permanent jobs and $130 billion in direct economic activity.
By contrast, landfills are among the most harmful environmental hazards we face today. Landfills are the third-largest source of methane, which is over 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period, and emit over 170 other air pollutants, including over 40 hazardous air pollutants, four known carcinogens, and 13 probable carcinogens. Recycling can help mitigate those emissions.
And while recycling opponents talk about how difficult it is to recycle, the industry has continued to find innovative ways to make it easier. By making recycling part of our everyday experience, our time and effort shapes a new mindset focused on strengthening the community.
In just the last few decades, a new recycling mindset has transformed human habits around waste disposal. Technology and a more comprehensive recycling strategy have sparked new green industries, bringing jobs, improved energy security, and protected communities, as well as generating impressive value for citizens.
Joburg generates R4 285 tons of waste a day: soon there’ll be nowhere for it to go, writes Musa Jack.
The City of Joburg is fast running out of landfill space. If residents don’t change the way they handle rubbish, in seven years’ time, there won’t be a place to dispose of such waste.
But it would be naive to confine the challenges of waste disposal to Jozi residents alone, as the city is a beacon of hope not only for ordinary South Africans; it attracts an inflow of people from beyond our shores who are seeking a better life.
These patterns of migration put pressure on the service offerings of the City of Joburg, particularly on the management of waste disposal.
According to the statistics recorded at four landfill sites managed by the city’s waste management company, Pikitup, Joburg generates about 4 285 tons of waste daily.
Close to 90 percent of this mixed waste ends up being disposed of at these landfill sites.
Disposing of waste at landfills isn’t the only option. In fact, it isn’t the preferred option, because waste isn’t rubbish, but a resource.
The waste being generated by households, businesses and industries is valuable material that can be re-used, recycled or recovered in one form or another.
Pikitup has developed plans to ensure a radical transformation in the manner in which waste is perceived by those who generate it.
This transformation offers ways of managing how domestic waste (paper, glass, plastic, cans, garden waste, food waste, e-waste and builders’ rubble) is handled.
The interventions articulated in the plan include the promotion of recycling, processing garden waste to make compost, using food waste to generate biogas, recycling construction material, and using residual waste to generate electricity which, in the future, will be critical in contributing to the power challenges being experienced countrywide.
This further emphasises the point that domestic waste is a resource that can be re-used or recovered for use as an alternative by-product.
Some of the interventions require changing consumer behaviour towards waste; a behaviour that requires a revolutionary mindset that embraces an attitude that business as usual is irresponsible, particularly towards the well-being of future generations.
The path that Pikitup and the city are embarking on in terms of a transformed relationship with waste will be a fruitless journey without the citizens of Joburg coming on board and viewing themselves as partners.
Two of the areas residents need to take responsibility for are littering and illegal dumping.
We need to move to a point where throwing a piece of paper or a cigarette butt on the ground and, certainly, dumping illegally in open spaces is frowned upon because this questions the extent to which we, as citizens, take pride in our beautiful city.
Most people don’t realise waste is linked to climate change.
The manufacture, distribution and use of products as well as the management of the resulting waste all use energy that results in greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide and contributes to climate change.
Separation at Source, a recycling programme, has been rolled out by Pikitup in selected parts of Joburg.
In the course of this year and next, the plan is to give all the city’s suburbs an opportunity to separate their recyclable waste at their homes.
Pikitup does acknowledge that, in this regard, it has a responsibility to make it convenient for citizens to recycle and also to help them understand why they should recycle.
In collaboration with communities through its Jozi@Work programme and private sector players, Pikitup aims to continue rolling out the necessary infrastructure to make it easy for residents to join the recycling crusade.
Still, all the infrastructure in the world will be pointless unless the households, businesses and schools of Joburg make a conscious decision to change their behaviour towards waste.
Embracing responsible waste management practices, as our collective responsibility, will contribute tremendously to enabling Joburg to foster its world-class African city status.
It will also help us to achieve the target of diverting 93 percent of waste from landfills by the year 2040 in line with our plan to minimise waste.
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