Despite increased awareness around the importance of recycling, large amounts of recoverable paper and board packaging are still unnecessarily dumped in landfill sites. “Sadly only 5% of homes actively recycle their paper and board,” says PRASA operations director Ursula Henneberry.
“There is so much more that can be done, not only to preserve our environment, but to alleviate poverty through recycling,” adds Henneberry.
South Africa consumed 2,4 million tonnes of paper, including newsprint, printing and writing grades, corrugated materials, board and tissue, in 2011. Some 2,2 million tonnes was manufactured locally, 786,000 tonnes imported and 586,000 tonnes exported.
Apart from an estimated 100,000 people who make a living through recycling, more than 170,000 people are employed in the forestry sector and downstream activities. “The sector plays a significant role in society as roads are developed in deep rural areas, and clinics, hospitals, schools and communities are sustained.”
One man’s waste is another man’s wealth
“Many people cannot get a main-stream job because of their low level of education while others, over the age of 50, battle to find work because of their age,” notes Henneberry.
PRASA, with the financial assistance of the Fibre Processing and Manufacturing Sector Education and Training Authority (FP&M Seta), offers a four-day entrepreneurship training course to assist aspirant entrepreneurs and unemployed individuals to set up and manage sustainable paper recycling and recovery ventures.
Presented free of charge, the course covers content such as paper sorting and recycling, business skills development and financial management.
‘Graduates’ include a number of beneficiaries at the Cato Manor ‘Udondolo’ cooperative in KwaZulu-Natal, a community-based project which sees people make a living out of recycling and reusing. The cooperative has grown from 15 to 23 people, ranging in age from 23 to 72. Three beneficiaries have transferred skills onto others, boosting the reach of the project. In addition to the glass, plastic, newspaper and cardboard that they had initially been collecting, they now also gather milk and juice cartons, white paper and plastic bottles.
Beryl Shezi from the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) organisation sings PRASA’s praises: “PRASA provided insightful, relevant and easy-to-understand information about recycling. The Udondolo beneficiaries were able to broaden the range of materials they collect and have started creating secondary products from some of the recyclables they collect. They are more conscious about the waste in their community and that waste is not really waste at all.”
The programme has trained more than 300 people at its main centres as well as Lephalale, Upington, Potchefstroom and Matatiele. Depending on the availability of funding from FP&M Seta, it will continue to offer these courses throughout the country.