Used cartons is one group of waste that was previously not recyclable. This is, however, now possible. WILLIAM GEORGE finds out what the benefits are and how businesses and ordinary
civilians can help.

Earlier this year, Mpact Recycling and the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, announced a R46-million project aimed at collection of recyclable carton material, also referred to as liquid packaging.

The carton material was previously not recyclable, due to its complex structure: the plastic and polyalu could not be separated from the paper. This is, however, now possible and Mpact Recycling estimates that it will recycle 25 000 t of the material in its new project.

Mpact Recycling processes the cartons through a special pulping process, where the paperboard reduces into a pulp and separates from the polyalu layer. The pulp is then used to make new paper-based products, such as tissue and paper towel.

“Since the official launch, we have seen progress in terms of greater awareness and more enquiries from people wishing to sell this material,” says Roland Thompson, business development officer at Mpact Recycling.

The company has been working with various small businesses and groups in the collection of carton material. Another organisation that has been collaborating with Mpact Recycling is Tetra Pak South Africa. Their joint objective is to recycle 40 percent of all beverage cartons by 2020 globally.

According to the 2016 Market Intelligence Report, South Africa has recycled 68 percent of its paper waste, plastic is recycled at 21 percent, while glass is recycled at 41 percent.

Thompson says: “Every country can recycle more. That being said, South Africa has some healthy recovery rates. As the end user of materials, Mpact Recycling contributes significantly to a paper recycling rate of 68,4 percent, as well as a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle recycling rate of 58 percent.”

Over 5 000 t of carton material has been recycled since the beginning of 2016 by Mpact Recycling through partnerships and collaborations. “We work with thousands of small businesses and groups. For example, the Shomang Sebebzani Development Initiative sold us over a tonne of cartons in September,” Thompson notes.

“We believe approximately 500 indirect jobs will be created through increased collections associated with this packaging,” Thompson notes.

According to Waste Economy: Market Intelligence Report 2017, produced by the Green Cape, approximately 65 percent of waste that is in landfills (around 38-million tonnes) could, theoretically, be diverted from landfill and recovered to be repurposed.

Everyone can help in recycling carton material. Thompson says that people can deposit their flattened cartons in any of the nearest Ronnie banks. “All Mpact Recycling branches accept cartons. People can also put their flattened cartons in our Ronnie bags if we collect in their area.”

Recycling other liquid packaging material

Another new initiative to recycle used liquid packing in South Africa is through the reverse vending machine (RVM), which was launched by Emperio Group in collaboration with Skydirect. The RVM machine incentivises people to recycle plastic bottles and cans by offering rewards.

Fabio dos Santos, owner of Emperio Group, says that there is only one machine available in the country at the moment, but there are plans to expand and introduce more. The current RVM machine is stationed at the Spar in Strubens Valley, in Roodepoort.

Director of Skydirect, Minesh Manga, says: “The idea of the rewards vending machine comes from Norway, where it is government-regulated. In Norway people recycle their plastic bottles and cans and get money in return. We are currently investigating ways to reward people.”

Manga mentions that rewarding people with money in South Africa may be difficult, as it would require government regulation.

He says: “We are trying to get people to recycle more. If they can be rewarded for doing so it will be a win-win. We would like to see the RVM machines introduced to more stores, such as Pick n Pay and other Spar outlets.”

He adds: “Using network providers to reward recycling customers with airtime would be ideal, but at the moment it hasn’t been confirmed. It would also be great if the machine could reward people with shopping points. In that way, the store owner would benefit as customers would return to the shop to purchase using the points.”

The prototype RVM machine will be at the Spar in Strubens Valley until the end of the year.