Port Elizabeth – The reduce-reuse-recycle mantra is good business practice, not only in terms of minimising environmental impacts of large manufacturing operations, but also for the opportunities it presents for small business growth, job creation and community upliftment.
In an effort to empower small recycling enterprises, General Motors South Africa (GMSA) recently held a workshop to facilitate information-sharing and contact between government officials and the recyclers who buy the company’s waste products.
GMSA plant engineer Angus Clark said the two-day workshop aimed to connect government and the private sector in order to improve understanding of the needs of the recycling sector, share information on legislation in an effort to ensure compliance, and identify opportunities for the recyclers to grow their businesses.
National Department of Environmental Affairs Deputy Director: Licensing, Zingisa Phohlo, welcomed GMSA’s initiative, saying the workshop enabled the department to share information on updates to legislation which could benefit the small recyclers.
“For example, the revised waste management activity list gazetted in November last year has revised the thresholds at which environmental impact assessments are required for storage, recycling, treatment and disposal of waste. This means that small recyclers are not over-burdened with regulatory requirements and creates opportunities for them to grow their businesses.
“Our aim is to balance considerations of environmental management, waste management and economic opportunities,” Phohlo said.
The Waste Trade Company marketing manager Vicky du Toit said the workshop was also an opportunity “to learn from GMSA’s cradle-to-grave approach to waste management and reducing their carbon footprint”.
GMSA’s award-winning environmental management programme has seen the company reduce its generation of non-recyclable waste by 60%, from 34.09kg per vehicle manufactured in 2008 to just 11.08kg in 2013. The 2014 target is to cut this in half, down to 5.5kg per vehicle, while both the Parts Distribution Centre in the Coega Industrial Development Zone and the Vehicle Conversion & Distribution Centre in Aloes are on track to achieve zero-waste-to-landfill by year-end.
The company’s recyclable waste is removed by nine local recycling companies which re-use or recycle the waste, creating business opportunities and employment in the process. One of the companies, EC Wood, has created 160 jobs in its furniture manufacturing operation which re-uses waste wood from GMSA and other manufacturers.
For Vistarus Mission Station founder Kobus Jacobs, collecting and recycling waste from GMSA is an opportunity to support his organisation’s work with helping destitute families to get back on their feet.
Many of those supported by the centre have skills that are employed in making products from waste collected from GMSA, as well as re-pelletising plastic and moulding picture frame material from recycled polystyrene for sale to other manufacturers. The next step, Jacobs said, is to set up an injection moulding facility to manufacture plastic products.
Crizaan Vermaak of Innovative Mouldings said her company purchased and re-pelletised waste plastic from GMSA, selling the pellets to companies manufacturing a range of plastic items such as crates, plastic sheeting and carrier bags.
“We don’t have a network or a forum as recyclers in Port Elizabeth, so the workshop created a good opportunity to connect and learn from others in the industry. Having top government officials here has helped us to know what is happening in the sector, what the requirements are, and to have information to access new opportunities,” she said.
Representing the provincial Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism, the Deputy Director: Pollution & Waste Management, Tembela Mapukata said the workshop had allowed government to meet “people who work in recycling on the ground, and to understand their business challenges”.
“There are business and job creation opportunities in reducing and recycling waste. It is useful to see who GMSA is working with and how we can work together as government and business to ensure compliance with environmental legislation and promote sound environmental management,” she said.
GMSA Facilities Lead Ncedisa Mzuzu said the workshop had achieved its objective of “information sharing, understanding of business challenges, insights into new opportunities, and helping the recyclers to understand the rules and regulations, and know where to go to for assistance from government.”