Reduce, Re-use and Recycle The business of using rubbish again
NAMIBIA’S fledgling recycling business faces many obstacles, including the volumes of waste and logistical nightmares.
In addition to local logistical problems, there are transport regulations in South Africa, which do not allow its trucks transporting goods to Namibia to return home with another consignment.
Currently 80 per cent of Namibia’s waste is sent to South Africa for recycling, apart from Polysulfone (PES) plastic products that are processed by Polymer Recycling Manufacturers (PRM) at Okahandja.
The administrator of the Recycle Namibia Forum (RNF), Wolfgang Schenck, says PRM processes 60 per cent of the recycled plastic in Namibia and serves 85 per cent of the country’s plastic product needs.
‘The other issue which is a challenge is the price of the recyclable commodity which is low, plus how well it is sorted and how clean your recyclables are,’ Schenck says. Schenck, who is a businessman and an environmental management consultant, says another hindrance to the industry is the setting up of waste-collection centres. He says costs of setting up a properly functioning collection centre – one that is able to gather and transport large volumes of waste – is prohibitive because of the low prices of waste. According to Schenck the Development Bank of Namibia (DBN) has chipped in by helping new entrants into the recycling business to acquire trucks to transport their waste to South Africa. This is done by giving them loans. ‘The bigger the volumes the better it works,’ he says. Finding suitable entrepreneurs to manage and service recycling stations all over the country is also a challenge. However, the recycling partners are positive that with some innovation, negotiation and political will, it will be possible in time. Schenck bemoans the transportation regulation currently in place where trucks delivering goods in Namibia return to South Africa empty.
‘It will be good if these conditions are relaxed so that small recycling business can enter into partnership with some transport companies so that when they go back to South Africa they take along the waste.’ There are several companies and institutions in Namibia that have bought into the recycling initiative and are currently members of the RNF. The recycling initiative is premised on the concept of threeRs – reduce, re-use and recycle. Among the players in the recycling industry is 4H Namibia, an NGO involved in environmental education in schools all over Namibia. Another company is Collect-a-Can, which facilitates the collection of beverage cans around the country.
Others are City of Windhoek, Enviro Fill, Lori Ink, Namibia Breweries, Namibia Dairies, Plastic Packaging, Rent-A-Drum, SAPPI re-fibre and the Glass Recycling Company. The Glass Recycling Company is a company formed by South African slag manufacturers involved in glass recycling. The corporate social investment manager at Namibia Breweries, Patricia Hoeksema, says her company has a comprehensive social investment programme which focuses on environmental preservation. Among these programmes is Project Shine, a coastal clean-up campaign that has been running for the past four years.
‘In 2009 we removed more than 30 tons of recyclables from the fragile Kaokoland area after an extensive clean-up operation.’ Hoeksema says. NBL is also a co-sponsor of the schools’ recycling competition hosted by the RNF. ‘Inside the business we have also invested significantly in greening our operations.’ Rohan Louw, business developer at Rent-a-Drum, the biggest recycling business in Namibia with a state-of-the-art material recovery sorting facility (MRF) in Windhoek, says the company started the recycling initiative 12 years ago. Louw says the MRF enables Rent-A-Drum to sort and bale mixed recyclables in huge volumes and has created more than 70 jobs for unskilled Namibians.
‘We remain the biggest recycling plant in Namibia and one of the top five in Africa,’ he says. Established in 1990, Rent-a-Drum today has a fleet of more than 35 waste-collecting trucks. Despite an increasing involvement of several companies in recycling initiative, RNF’s Schenck says Namibia is not really where it is supposed to be. ‘We are far from where we are supposed to be because dumping is made easy in Namibia. Most companies have only an understanding that waste is waste and it is useless,’ he says. He called on companies who see waste as just waste to change that attitude. ‘Do good and talk about it because this is a matter of changing attitude, that’s why we are involving schools.’
As the community plays a significant role in recycling waste, one of the initiatives launched by Rent-A-Drum, the City of Windhoek and Enviro-Fill Namibia is the Clear Bag System. Rent-A-Drum is distributing free clear plastic bags to households in Windhoek. Households can then place all recyclables (paper, plastic, glass and tins) into separate bags. With Windhoek’s landfill sites rapidly running out of capacity, each household’s participation in this recycling process will assist not only the City of Windhoek, but also the environment. Several recycling stations equipped with compartments for paper, cans, plastic and glass have also been erected at some shopping centres in Windhoek.