Despite increased awareness around the importance of recycling, large amounts of recoverable paper and board packaging are still unnecessarily dumped in landfill sites.
"There is so much more that can be done, not only to preserve our environment, but to create sustainable employment and alleviate poverty through recycling," says Ursula Henneberry, PRASA operations director.
One man's waste is another man's wealth
"Recoverable paper has value. Something of value is not waste which means we should start to think about ‘waste' differently. From policy makers and government to the private sector and ordinary family member, we need to see recyclable material as a resource," says Henneberry.
In the paper industry, 65% of recovered paper is used as an alternative raw material in the manufacturing process.
"Many people cannot get a job in the mainstream economy because of their low level of education or age," notes Henneberry. "Waste pickers earn a modest living from collecting and selling recyclables, however they are faced with a number of challenges."
They are often considered a nuisance as they go around with their trolley carts, and pose a significant risk on the roads. "We need to find a way of working with government, especially at local level, as well as the private sector to formalise their work and make it safer and more dignified."
Partnering with FP&M Seta to empower entrepreneurs
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.
The training programme has to date reached more than 300 people at its main centres as well as in Lephalale, Upington, Potchefstroom and Matatiele.
‘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 initially collected, 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 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."
Facts about paper and paper recycling
"We need to banish the notion that recycling paper saves trees," notes Henneberry. "In South Africa, paper is produced from plantation grown trees. Such trees are sustainably farmed for this very purpose, so do not need ‘saving'."
She adds that the forestry sector plants in excess of 262,000 trees every day. While these trees are growing, they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Only 9% of the total plantation area is harvested annually.
- Trees absorb carbon dioxide and store it as carbon in their wood. This wood is chipped, pulped and made into paper, keeping the carbon locked up in solid form. By recycling our paper, we ensure that this carbon remains locked up for longer.
- Paper can be recycled up to seven times before the fibres start to degrade.
- In South Africa, paper is NOT made from the wood of rainforests and indigenous trees.
- South Africa is among the world's most sustainable and responsible pulp and paper producers. It has the highest level of international certification for its plantations in the world with over 80% certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
- Always consider the source of your recycled paper. If it is imported, its carbon footprint may not be as good as you think. FSC-certified, locally manufactured virgin paper is also a sustainable means for printing, packaging and communications.
- Recycling helps to reduce pollution and litter, clearing the way towards a healthier, greener and cleaner society. It helps local municipalities to save money by transporting less waste to landfill sites. One tonne of paper equates to three cubic metres of landfill space.
- Recycling plays a big part in job creation and poverty alleviation. By recycling your paper, you increase the earning potential for waste collectors. For many this is their only source of income.
South Africa consumed 2.6 million tonnes of paper, including newsprint, printing and writing grades, corrugated materials, board and tissue in 2012. Some 2.4 million tonnes was manufactured locally, 864,000 tonnes imported and 605,000 tonnes exported.