A nine-year-old environmental warrior, an award-winning consumer journalist, a top female recycler in SA and an inspiring community project are just some of the Western Cape locals who walked away with awards for their recycling efforts.
On the back of its recent announcement of a 6% year-on-year increase in the recycling of PET plastic bottles, national industry body the PET Recycling Company (PETCO) has unveiled its 2019 recycling champions – people and organisations making strides in sustainability at grassroots level across South Africa.
The Western Cape led the national list with nine category winners, including nine-year-old youth warrior Rocco da Silva, consumer journalist Wendy Knowler, and Franschhoek’s Jocelyn Van Der Ross, who overcame unemployment and three devastating fires to run a successful recycling business.
Other Western Cape winners were Hout Bay community project Thrive and corporates Corruseal and Fair Cape Dairies, while University of Cape Town academic Takunda Chitaka and Plastics|SA environmental manager John Kieser received individual honours for their efforts. The Drakenstein Municipality also scooped an award for local authority recycling innovation.
- Waste Reduction Youth Warrior*: Rocco Antonio Da Silva, The Future Kids Club (Somerset West)
At the tender age of nine, Rocco Antonio da Silva has a big vision and strong determination to clean up the environment by creating awareness about plastic pollution and recycling.
The Somerset West resident formed The Future Kids Club, which aims to create awareness and get the youth in his area to commit to participating in monthly beach clean-ups.
Da Silva said he started the club because he was tired of seeing litter on beaches. Over the last 14 months, members have collected in excess of 950kg of rubbish off a local 400m stretch of beach, mainly straws, lollipop sticks, cigarettes and, occasionally, bottles.
Asked why he was so invested in the project, Da Silva said: “I cannot do this on my own, we don’t have a lot of time. The planet is our future.
“My message to all South Africans is to stop using single-use plastic and get involved in beach or community clean-ups. This award means people are listening to how important it is to recycle plastic.”
* award shared with Rotondwa Musitha, Trash Converters (Limpopo)
- Media Spotlight: Wendy Knowler (Cape Town)
Award-winning consumer journalist Wendy Knowler was recognised for her role in helping to shed light on the importance of conscious consumption and recycling, while taking a balanced approach to the plastics issue.
Knowler’s factful print, digital and radio journalism has helped audiences better understand a complex topic.
“I think those of us who have a platform should use it to stem that flow of recyclable material onto our landfills and beaches by empowering people to make very conscious decisions about the products they buy and what they do with the packaging afterwards. If enough of us do it often enough, slowly but surely we’ll make a difference.”
Discussing what the award meant to her, Knowler said: “I am thrilled and very proud to have received it, as it is recognition of my ongoing attempts to create awareness about recycling issues, dispel myths, shame companies who continue to design packaging without recycling in mind and to motivate consumers to do their bit.”
- Top Woman in Recycling: Jocelyn Van Der Ross, Green Spot Recycling (Franschhoek)
Franschhoek-based buy-back centre Green Spot Recycling has overcome the odds, with owner Jocelyn Van Der Ross starting from scratch three times following devastating fires.
“I moved to Franschhoek in 2004. When I first arrived, I asked myself: ‘What can I do to make a difference that no one else is doing?’ I saw all the wine bottles and started my recycling business going through bins,” said Van Der Ross.
She started with two employees, and today has 15 staff collecting and sorting recyclables, buying recyclables from three waste pickers. Green Spot Recycling now collects over six tonnes of PET plastic bottles a month.
Of the award, Van Der Ross said: “I feel absolutely overwhelmed. This award makes my staff and I feel that we have been doing something right towards our environment. We certainly want to grow and do more.”
- CEO SPECIAL AWARD: John Kieser, Environmental Manager, Plastics|SA (Cape Town)
John Kieser is a conservationist with a specific interest in marine debris pollution, leading beach and community clean-ups across South Africa.
“I started seeing that plastic was a growing problem 20 years ago and, after resigning from my previous governmental role, was asked by the Plastics Federation to carry on with my work on plastic pollution.”
Reacting to news of his award, Kieser said it had been a morale boost. “We all need an indication that we are doing the right thing as sometimes we lose sight of the fact that we are actually making a difference.
“For me the critical part is showing poor people that plastics have value and there are places you can take it to for a return in money. To see them grow in their search and work in this field is very heart-warming,” he said.
- Public Campaign of the Year: Thrive (Hout Bay)
Thrive was born in 2004 out of a needs assessment run by Imagine Hout Bay, which identified the community’s top three priorities as its people, conservation of its natural beauty, and local economy.
Helen Adendorff, executive director of Thrive, said: “Recycling and waste management projects were a natural outcome of these ideas and provided a practical course of action. We devised Thrive’s five pillars of environmental sustainability: Waste, Water, Food, Biodiversity and Energy, and work to educate schools and communities about these pillars.”
To assist schools in their journey to adopt more sustainable practices, Thrive conducts annual environmental audits and rewards the greenest schools for their efforts.
“Thrive also connects schools with buy-back businesses for the collection of recyclables separated by the students, which allows the school to generate additional income,” said Adendorff.
Of the recognition, she said: “My colleagues, Nontsikelelo Martel and Zikhona Mdalase, and I were delighted to receive the award as it raises awareness for the work that Thrive does in Hout Bay.”
She said they were in the process of developing a replicable community model which would be available on their website later this year.
- Recycled Product of the Year: Corruseal (Cape Town)
As a national manufacturer and supplier of packaging to a wide range of industries, Corruseal made the decision to use only locally sourced and recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) strapping.
Corruseal sources the strapping from Cape Town-based supplier Propet, which uses locally sourced post-consumer PET bottles in its manufacturing process.
“What is exciting about rPET strapping is that it can be made from green plastic bottles, which have had a limited end-use market to date. As other manufacturers make the switch to locally sourced rPET strapping, overall recycling rates will continue to increase,” said Willie Koch, Corruseal supply chain manager.
“Strapping plays major part in the industry, without which products cannot be transported. Our motto is ‘Better packaging for a better world’. Without recycling and efficient waste collection, turning it back into paper and boxes, we would not have a business,” said Koch.
- Recycling Partnership Gamechanger: Fair Cape Dairies (Cape Town)
A partnership across the value chain has enabled Fair Cape Dairies to shift to recyclable packaging, with little to no impact on product quality.
“Adding white masterbatch to a clear PET plastic milk bottle has generally been known to increase the milk’s shelf life, as white is needed to block UV light from damaging the milk,” said spokesperson Joel Serman.
“But when Fair Cape Dairies changed their packaging from a white PET plastic bottle to a clear one, we received feedback that recyclers were not accepting the milk bottles, which ended up in landfills.”
The company responded by embarking on an 18-month research project to find suppliers that could help to keep the shelf life constant in a bottle that could be recycled. Today, each clear bottle is not only recyclable, but is also made with 50% recycled PET (rPET).
Serman said what made the PETCO award even more meaningful was that the entire project was based on requests from consumers.
“It shows the power that consumers have to steer brands in the right direction and insist that they do the right thing. The challenge has been to ensure that it becomes not about convincing our stakeholders to recycle, but about it becoming unfathomable to them not to.”
- Excellence in Academia**: Takunda Chitaka (University of Cape Town)
Chitaka is in the fourth year of her PhD studies, dedicated to better understanding the nature of the problem of plastics in our coastal environment, and how solutions based on the principles of life-cycle management could be developed.
She was nominated for her work on the nature of the plastics found on Cape Town beaches, which was published in an international scientific journal this year.
In this work she determined litter wash-up rates for five beaches and classified 36 000 items by weight into 372 distinguishable item types across 10 material types and 19 functional type categories.
“My hope from my research is that it helps to form the way forward for the plastics economy in South Africa,” said Chitaka.
** award shared with Melanie Samson (Wits)
- Local Authority Recycling Innovation: Drakenstein Municipality (Paarl)
Drakenstein Municipality has transformed the Wellington landfill site from a crime hotspot into a safe, thriving recycling concern, providing a source of income for 30 entrepreneurs.
“When I received the site it had been taken over by informal recyclers and was a public no-go zone,” said Thys Serfontein, senior manager of solid waste and landfill management.
Serfontein spent time getting the buy-in of the informal sector and explaining the municipal support on offer, including recycling materials and protective clothing. With informal recycler Marilyn “Sussie” Peters as project manager, the dump is now open daily and provides a safe environment in which to earn a living.
Serfontein said next on the agenda was the building of a R25-million Material Recovery Facility for the entrepreneurs over the next three years.
The project has been so successful that Serfontein and Peters have been approached by the Metsimaholo Municipality in the Free State to establish a similar project.
- Read about ALL the PETCO recycling winners, HERE!