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AEPW supports and investigates the informal waste sector in Africa

In South Africa, informal waste reclaimers make an important contribution to waste management. The Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW) has supported the project partner African Reclaimers Organisation (ARO) in a project in which new collection and sorting structures were set up and in which the workers from the informal sector were integrated. What effects – also on the so-called waste-pickers – the introduction of an obligatory deposit system for disposable beverage bottles would have in South Africa is also to be clarified in a study co-financed by the AEPW.

The AEPW projects in regions in which there is as yet no well-developed disposal infrastructure are aimed at supporting the development of systems that are adopted by towns and communities and can be continued by them. It is also important here for the project partners to close the gap to the informal waste collectors and to integrate their contributions to waste management into the formal disposal management. Through the setting-up of facilities that offer a safe environment for sorting, converting and selling of reusable materials, a relevant model is to be developed in a project that conceptionally brings together the informal waste management sector with formal disposal management. As part of a nine-month cooperation arrangement, the ARO, with the support of the AEWP, carried out the project in which – according to the reports – nearly 600 tonnes of plastic waste were collected up to February 2023 in Mayflower in the province of Mpumalanga and in parts of the city of Johannesburg in areas in which there were previously no disposal structures. The collected plastic waste was transported to a newly built sorting centre, where it was sorted and prepared for sale with mobile bale presses. The model is now to be extended to the entire city and, if possible, to the whole of South Africa.
Apart from that, the AEPW, together with the Norwegian embassy in South Africa, is financing a nine-month study that aims to examine the feasibility, costs and effects of introducing an obligatory deposit return system for single-use beverage bottles in South Africa. The study is being carried out by the University of the Western Cape (UWC) in cooperation with the environmental consulting company Eunomia Research & Consulting Ltd. (Eunomia). The overriding aim of the study is to establish the probable effects (costs and benefits) of introducing an obligatory deposit system for non-returnable bottles in South Africa. The study will also include surveys among the waste collectors and interviews with the marketing channels of the informal sector as well as the participation of other interest groups such as the WWF South Africa, the Westkap government, the Ministry for Forestry, Fishing and the Environment, and the UNEP office in South Africa. It follows on from a study carried out by the WWF and financed by the Norwegian Embassy in cooperation with the environment programme of the United Nations (UNEP) and Changing Markets regarding the attitudes and approaches of interest groups regarding a deposit system for South Africa in the year 2022, and aims to clarify open questions. The participants in the study see a number of potential advantages of introducing a deposit system: for example, providing an effective and broadly accepted method for increasing the collection quota of drink packs, developing a socially just, integrated deposit model, and creating healthy and environmentally friendly jobs and income possibilities for waste collectors. Over and above this, a deposit system would reduce the dumping of waste, relieve the environment and reduce littering. Finally, it is assumed that plastics recycling would be strengthened and carbon output reduced.
The Alliance to End Plastic Waste is an organisation to which around 75 global companies in the chemical and plastics industry belong. They have committed themselves to invest 1.5 billion US dollars in solutions to eliminate plastic litter in the environment. The founding members include BASF, Chevron Phillips Chemical, ExxonMobil, Dow Chemical, Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings, Procter & Gamble and Shell. The aim of the alliance founded in 2019 is to develop, implement and popularise sustainable solutions for minimising and managing plastic waste, especially in the sea. By promoting cooperation, innovation and investment, the AEPW wants to create a circular economy for plastics and ensure that they are used, reused and recycled responsibly.

  • (6.7.2023, 7.7.2023)
  • Photo: © AEPW

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