Waste Beneficiation Could Help South Africa Go Green and Create Jobs
In May 2021, the South African government gazetted new EPR regulations to enforce large-scale recycling and reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill. In light of these new regulations, many private companies are looking for new, more eco-friendly ways of dealing with waste.
Waste beneficiation is one such approach that could divert tonnes of scrap materials away from landfills and back into the economy.
What is Waste Beneficiation?
Waste beneficiation means turning waste materials into products of a higher economic value. It may involve treating the waste to isolate specific components, which become the raw materials in a new production line. It may also involve removing impurities or contaminants from the waste before using it to make new products.
Waste beneficiation already happens in the mining sector, where companies often extract trace amounts of leftover metals from waste rock and turn fly ash into fertiliser. Today, waste beneficiation is becoming more mainstream in other industries.
The Benefits of Waste Beneficiation
Waste beneficiation keeps rubbish out of landfills, streets, and our water sources. Instead, it ends up in factories where it can be sorted, cleaned, and repurposed to make something new. In this way, waste beneficiation can help us reduce environmental pollution and protect biodiversity.
Repurposing rubbish as a raw material creates a circular economy where nothing goes to waste. It puts valuable resources, such as metal and plastic, back into the economy, making them more accessible to manufacturing companies, artists, builders, and other makers.
An increased supply of such materials can drive down the price, helping new business owners break into the market, which in turn generates jobs and stimulates the economy.
Waste2Art in South Africa
Waste2Art is a type of waste beneficiation where artists use discarded materials like packaging and scrap metal as an art medium. It is rooted in the Found Art movement, in which artists used random objects not typically associated with art. This led to the famous Junk Art movement in the 1950s and the various recycled art installations we see today.
Mbongeni Buthelezi is a world-renowned South African artist and pioneer in creating paintings from recycled plastic. He has exhibited his work in New York, Germany, Australia, and Portugal, sparking conversations about plastic waste in Africa.
Today, many South African entrepreneurs use rubbish to make sculptures, jewellery, toys, and home decor. Additionally, schools, universities, and community groups often create public art installations made from recycled materials.
Examples of recycled art installations in South Africa include Thabang Selai’s bottle cap mural in Braamfontein, Plettenberg Bay’s Recycled Whale sculpture, and the iThemba Tower in Troyeville.
Using Waste as a Secondary Raw Material
A secondary raw material has been recovered from a general waste stream and reused in manufacturing. Examples of secondary raw materials are scrap metal, waste paper, recycled plastics, and glass aggregate. Here are four examples of South African companies that use recycled materials to make new products:
- Isowall Group: skirting boards and dado rails from recycled polystyrene
Isowall Group manufactures polystyrene insulation panels and other building materials in South Africa. The company recently announced a goal to send zero waste to landfills across its operations. Isowall recycles roughly 10 tonnes of discarded expanded polystyrene (EPS) every month, using it to make its Isowood range, which includes skirting boards and dado rails.
Isowood products are as strong and durable as hardwood with a realistic wood-like appearance. You can also use it to build outdoor furniture and decking.
- Transpaco: dustbins and refuse bags from recycled plastic
Transpaco produces paper and plastic packaging and is one of Africa’s largest recyclers of HDPE and LDPE. The company collects and recycles plastic waste from shopping centres, landfills, farms, and factories across the country.
Transpaco’s recycling department turns the waste into new products, namely bin bags, dustbins, builders’ sheeting, and agricultural water pipes. The company sells its refuse bags under the familiar brand name, Garbie.
- Envirolite: concrete products from recycled polystyrene
Envirolite manufactures lightweight concrete blocks, bricks, and slabs from recycled polystyrene. The company sources the polystyrene from local recyclers, community groups, and businesses. Envirolite concrete is as strong as traditional concrete and has a two-hour SABS-approved fire rating.
These eco-friendly concrete products are ultra lightweight and fuel-efficient to transport. This is one of the few applications for recycled polystyrene food and drink containers.
- Twinsaver: tissues from recycled paper
Twinsaver’s Green Choice range is a selection of eco-friendly tissue paper products made from 100% recycled materials. The company collects and recycles latex-free office waste paper and turns it into toilet paper, serviettes, roller towels, and other tissue paper products. Twinsaver works with informal collectors to source the waste paper, supporting various disadvantaged communities throughout South Africa.
Waste Not, Want Not
Like many nations worldwide, South Africa is undergoing an environmental transformation. As the availability of natural resources declines, finding a way to reuse waste to make new products can help us create a more circular economy.
eWASA is a registered producer responsibility organisation (PRO) in South Africa. We help private companies make eco-friendly changes for a more sustainable future. Contact us to find out how we can help you.