By Fiona Wakelin

Climate change and sustainable development are key issues which companies and individuals need to factor into decision-making and processes on a daily basis in order to ensure sustainability of the planet. 


Supporting the Green Economy

Recycling is an important factor in the green economy – when we re-use materials from products to create new ones this uses fewer resources, saves money, uses less energy and results in less pollution. Paper products that are recyclable include magazines, newspapers, packaging, milk and juice boxes


According to an Incpen study, packaging is responsible for, on average, 8% of the carbon footprint of products consumed at home and, therefore, reusing, recycling and repurposing is a key component in its design. 


South Africa has 7 recognised Paper and Packaging Responsibility Organisations (PROs):

  • The Glass Recycling Company
  • Paper Recycling Association of SA
  • Polystyrene Association of South Africa
  • SA Vinyls Association


The PROs objectives include:

  • Identifying where there are opportunities in the waste streams in SA where the members can, within the framework of the law, work together to improve recycling rates of the various packaging materials;
  • Engaging and communicating with key individuals within the Central and local Government to achieve the following;
  • Highlighting the key role that packaging plays in the modern world and how packaging helps in the reduction of waste;
  • Providing information on the various initiatives that are in place in the recycling and recovery of used packaging


SA’s Paper Recovery Rates 

According to MPACT Recycling, South Africa’s paper recovery rate is well above the global average of 59.3% (ICFPA, 2019 Sustainability Progress Report), and according to PAMSA sitting at 68.5% for 2019 – with 1.2 million tonnes of paper and paper packaging being diverted from landfills in that year. Looking at plastics, the recycling rates for cool drinks and water bottles have improved over the years. The latest statistics indicate that 62% of all plastic beverage bottles produced in SA, in 2019, were collected for recycling – an increase from 55% in 2016. South Africa is, therefore, ahead of international standards and is currently a recycling world-leader.


“South Africa’s recycling infrastructure has developed to make it as easy as possible to #SeparateAtSource as certain recyclable materials can be grouped together. This is called “multi-recycling” and simply means separating recyclables from general waste. In fact, all paper-based recyclables can go in one clear refuse bag, making recycling accessible and easy. The balance of recyclables such as glass, plastic and cans can be placed in a separate bag, purely because they often carry liquid which can contaminate paper and cardboard.” – MPACT.


“How recycling is collected differs from community to community. There might be a formal recycling collector, collectors who service particular residential areas, or local community collection points such as schools, retirement villages or shopping malls”, comments  John Hunt, Managing Director of MPACT Recycling.



Government commitment to recycling and waste management

On 21 April 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that R100-billion would be allocated for job protection and creation, as part of the emergency relief package in response to the Covid-19 global pandemic.


The Presidential Employment Stimulus sets out to create and support 800,000 job opportunities, with R12.6-billion committed in the current financial year and an investment of R100-billion over the next three years to support the recovery of employment.


The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure has commenced various programmes to provide job opportunities for unemployed graduates in sectors such as water and energy efficiency, the Welisizwe Rural Bridges Programme, facilities management, waste management and real estate management. In the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, a number of programmes to address climate change adaptation measures, sustainable forest management and retention of jobs in wildlife, eco-tourism and bioprospecting value chains aims to provide more than 50 000 job opportunities – with an investment of R1.9-billion from government. This includes expanding existing programmes through contract extensions, as well as new programmes. 


The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries promotes the following as healthy waste management practices: reduce, re-use, recycle and recover – collectively known as the 4 R’s and defined as the “waste hierarchy” in the Waste Act of 2008.



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