The Polystyrene Packaging Council (PSPC) of South Africa was invited in April by polystyrene manufacturer Versapak, in Harare, to assist in establishing a similar industry body – the PSPC of Zimbabwe – to oversee the recycling of polystyrene in that country.
PSPC director Adri Spangenberg says this came after the Zimbabwe government and environmental organisations started putting pressure on local industry to tackle polystyrene litter and recycling issues.
“The pressure applies to all materials, which is also the case in South Africa. Government and other organisations are writing waste-management laws and enforcing recycling. They are still in the process of putting their expectations to industry and industry is coming up with solutions,” she says.
Spangenberg adds that Zimbabwe is facing a bright economic outlook, as the country’s economy grew by 9.3% last year, following a decade of economic decline.
The country’s economy is expected to continue this economic growth into 2013 on the back of increased output from mines and farms that are benefiting from the more stable political climate.
“The country has the available resources and motivation to look at saving landfill space and implementing a sustainability plan. It has heard of the successes we’ve been able to achieve in polystyrene recycling and in developing new markets for recycled polystyrene in South Africa. Zimbabwe was eager to learn from our best practice models and collaborate with us on future initiatives,” she explains.
Besides clearly outlining the importance of creating a sustainable and responsible polystyrene recycling forum and offering advice on the best investments in infrastructure, the PSPC of SA was also invited to offer advice on correcting the existing misconceptions about polystyrene and the importance of ongoing consumer education.
“Currently, no recycling of polystyrene is taking place in Zimbabwe and some of the locally manufactured and imported polystyrene are not marked with the recycling symbol, which makes polystyrene identification difficult.
“In addition, the Zimbabwean public needs to be educated about recycling, as polystyrene litter is visible in the streets and the people are ignorant about the correct use, disposal and recycling of polystyrene,” Spangenberg says.
A joint working group, which is represented by many of the country’s polystyrene industry role-players, such as polystyrene importers and manufacturers in Zimbabwe, government environmental departments, as well as environmental agencies and recycling companies, has already been established, says Spangenberg. She adds that the Zimbabwean PSPC council is now engaging with government to present its solutions.
“We assisted the PSPC of Zimbabwe in drawing up a business plan that was tailored to suit the country’s needs. The council is also involved in community projects where it is working with environmental organisations to put the plans into action,” she says.
Spangenberg adds that the Zimbabwean council has identified various objectives, which it would like to achieve during the short to medium term, such as investigating the pelletising of polystyrene and using polystyrene in building projects.
“Zimbabwe’s PSPC hopes to achieve a polystyrene recovery rate of 20% of the total volume a year and to establish a recycling programme in Harare first, after which it will be established in other parts of the country.
"However, it is starting its short-term activities by introducing the PSPC’s cooking bag project, where recycled polystyrene is used to manufacture cooking bags, which are supplied to local communities,” Spangenberg says.
The Zimbabwean PSPC council will also implement the PSPC of South Africa’s Breadtags for Wheelchairs project, which involves the public recycling plastic bread tags in return for wheelchairs. They will be donated to those who need a wheelchair but can’t afford it.
The South African PSPC has committed its ongoing support and assistance to its Zimbabwean counterpart.
“We are proud to be a part of this much-needed and exciting development that will result in increased recycling of polystyrene in sub-Saharan Africa. By combining our knowledge and resources, we will be able to develop improved strategies and markets that will ultimately benefit our entire continent,” Spangenberg concludes.