New project gives ‘waste a value’

EDIT: A previous version of this article stated that recycled plastic was used in bread bags. This is incorrect and we regret the error.

To help combat the growing plastic waste problem in the Buffalo City Municipality, area, Wilsonia-based plastic manufacturing plant ECO Pak is working with local recycling organisations to promote the Bag2TheFuture project to collect waste and properly recycle it.

GREEN PACKAGING: The shredded plastic in the bale next to ECO Pak general manager Claude Miles will eventually be converted into carrier bags as part of the Bag2TheFuture recycling project
Picture: MATTHEW FIELD

“[The recycling companies] collect the waste from people who want to do the right thing and recycle. They then take it back to their two different sorting areas, they sort it and bale it and then resell it,” ECO Pak general manager Claude Miles he said.

Miles said ECO Pak was currently working with two East London non-government organisations –  Land of the Living and Smart Waste.

Land of the Living director Dr Scott Worley said the NGO is more than just a recycling company as they also want to use recycling as a way to uplift communities and empower residents.

They currently run two primary programmes: HOPE, a network of local leaders with social development initiatives that offers support with skills development, resource mobilisation and collaborative opportunities; and Unantoni Endlini, an entrepreneurial training and mentorship programme for unemployed youth.

“We thus aim to help them not just find jobs, but create their own businesses which in turn will provide jobs in their communities.

“We specifically use recycling as a platform for this – training them in the plastics recycling industry to help them ultimately create their own local collection centres in their communites while simultaneously enhancing creating public awareness around environmental conservation.”

A bale of shredded plastic that is waiting to be recycled
Picture: MATTHEW FIELD

Once the plastic is collected and sorted, ECO Pak purchases it from the NGOs, converts it into plastic pellets, and then turns those pellets into new carrier bags.

Bag2TheFuture is about more than just plastic, however. Under the project, residents are given different coloured waste bags – made from recycled plastic – with each colour representing a different category of waste. For example, green packets are meant for paper waste while blue packets are for glass.

“If you have a look at your household waste content, you should probably have one bag going to a landfill a week,” said Miles.

ECO Pak will also be working closely with the recently opened AfriWaste wash plant for plastic in Fort Jackson.

Miles said that he hopes the project “gives waste a value” which will in turn encourage people to collect plastic it and sell it, similarly to scrap metal.

To contact ECO Pak, send an e-mail to ecopack@leaderpak.co.za. Smart Waste can be contacted at 071-392-8419 and Land of the Living on can be contacted at 073-223-8951.

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