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Wanted: SA’s sustainability saviours

THE search for South Africa’s sustainability saviours is on – and the chances are you already know one. It could be a waste picker in your neighbourhood, a recycling initiative in your town or city, or a waste collection and recycling entrepreneur you’ve come across.

The need to highlight the people and organisations working to create a litter-free and sustainable future is greater than ever, according to non-profit organisation Petco – South Africa’s longest-standing producer responsibility organisation (PRO) overseeing collection and recycling efforts of post-consumer packaging throughout the country.

“Through recognising excellence in reuse, recycling and waste minimisation around the country, the Petco Awards aim to drive positive change among consumers and in the collection and recycling sector,” said Cheri Scholtz, Petco CEO.

Additionally, Scholtz added, sustainability heroes were being recognised for “turning trash into treasure” and helping to bring income opportunities to their communities through their work to grow the circular economy.

“Our awards span 11 categories. You can nominate the waste picker in your neighbourhood, a recycling initiative in your town or city, or an entrepreneur in the collection and recycling space.”

Nominations for entries close 9 February. Further details can be found online at bit.ly/petco_sa

Aside from the equipment support from Petco that award winners receive, the spotlight on their efforts has boosted previous winners. Last year’s winners were featured in an online docu-series titled Sorted, which, filmed by veteran actor-director Louw Venter, has received over two million views on YouTube.

“There are people who are designing products so they can be recycled. There are people collecting and sorting these recyclables. There are people buying these recyclables,” explains actress and docu-series narrator Lindiwe Dim in the premier of Sorted. “The money changing hands means that people can eat and communities can flourish.”

Changing lives through sustainability:

Dim visits Matlosana Recycling, a woman-owned and managed buy-back centre in Klerksdorp. There, founder Cindy Foord – joint recipient of last year’s Petco Top Woman in Collection and Recycling award – employs 23 permanent staff and supports 160 waste pickers by purchasing their recyclables.

“Everyone that comes in here [to sell a recyclable] bottle or paper, I know that is their food for the day. That drives me… but a lot of people don’t know that [recyclable materials are] worth something,” Foord tells Dim.

In the Helderberg region, Dim visits the Stellenbosch Community Recycling Initiative by CL Trading – a recipient of last year’s Petco Best Community Recycling Initiative award.

The initiative collects over 3,000 tonnes of recyclables annually – about the same weight as 500 African bull elephants – providing a vital revenue stream to self-employed waste pickers in the community.

Speaking of the initiative’s good work in the community, CL Trading managing director Shaun Styger tells Dim: “[Pupils] will come showing their [good] marks from school, and we’ll reward them for it. That means something to them and gives them inspiration to go further at school.”

In the season finale of Sorted, Dim reflects on her journey, saying: “There is a whole sub-sector of society here who designs for recycling, reclaims waste, sells it to buy-back centres and makes material that makes new packaging products, all while adding value to people’s lives, communities and our country in the process.

“If we all play our individual parts, we can make it work.” Scholtz said she was proud of the docu-series which aimed “to highlight the role consumers can play in the collection and sorting chain for the SMMEs and waste pickers working in this sector”.

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