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Successful “Recycling in the Bag” campaign

200 waste collectors ahead of Global Recycling Day

Over the past 15 years, more than 19 million tonnes of paper and paper packaging have been recovered and kept out of South African landfills, the bales of which would almost go around the Earth twice. The country also boasts an average paper recovery rate of 70%, making paper the second-most recovered material in South Africa. Paper products can be recycled, in many cases, up to 25 times.

The circular waste economy is a thriving network of collectors, buyers and processors, using recyclables such as wastepaper to make new products.

Ahead of Global Recycling Day, Fibre Circle, the producer responsibility organisation for the paper sector, teamed up with food service and packaging producer Detpak and Remade Recycling (part of the Mpact Group) to show 200 recycling collectors that paper grocery bags and brown take-away food bags can be collected from households and sold with their wastepaper collections.

One of the more positive outcomes of the Covid-19 pandemic was the rise of grocery deliveries and online shopping and the subsequent move to paper packaging. Made from a recycled paper fibre, paper grocery bags and cardboard boxes can now be collected and baled together for recycling as K4 material.

Paper recycling is largely based on different grades of paper. In industry speak cardboard boxes are termed K4 while used white office paper is termed as HL1 (heavy letter 1). Cereal boxes, egg cartons and other similar paper items are deemed common mixed waste (CMW).

For a waste collector who sells recyclables to a buy-back centre or recycling branch, the type of paper – and the value they get for it – is significant.

“With paper bags now synonymous with suburban and city-based grocery deliveries after Covid kept many of us away from supermarkets, Detpak and its customers felt that it was important to close the loop with the production and recycling of paper bags,” explains Carla Breytenbach, marketing manager for Detpak.

Under a new campaign, “Recycling in the Bag, small groups of collectors were invited to a discussion and demonstration by Anele Sololo, manager for education and SMME development at Fibre Circle at Remade Recycling’s Midrand branch on 4 March.

Each collector then received a pie and soft drink, along with a paper goodie bag, naturally in the same material that makes grocery bags, containing a reflective T-shirt, sun hat, safety gloves, fresh fruit and a box of Smarties, also in a recyclable paper box.

“Safety and visibility is a key aspect in the lives of collectors who navigate the busy streets of our suburbs daily making an honest living,” notes Donna-Mari Noble, communications manager for the Mpact Group’s Recycling business, which includes Remade Recycling. Fibre Circle hopes to see many similar collaborative initiatives as extended producer responsibility plans start making inroads and delivering on the targets set out in the regulations.

Fibre Circle, Global Recycling Day, Recycling in the Bag