Paper and plastics packaging company Mpact on Tuesday launched a R46-million liquid packaging plant at its Springs mill, in Ekurhuleni.
The plant will recycle 25 000 t/y of liquid packaging products, which have so far seen limited beneficiation in South Africa.
Delivering the keynote address, Environmental Affairs Minister Dr Edna Molewa said the mill was in line with the National Development Plan’s aim to find alternative and innovative ways to convert waste into valuable resources.
“We want South Africa to become a zero waste-to-landfill society without strangling industry. We want to create jobs and establish small, medium-sized and microenterprises, which is key to growing South Africa’s economy,” she said.
She added that it was important to find innovative technological solutions that could be implemented in the local recycling industry and also be exported to other countries on the continent.
“South Africa is managing its waste better than most other countries on the continent,” she pointed out, adding that diverting waste from landfill sites was laudable. She also called on other companies in the packaging industry to follow suit.
“We need to work together, not only in ensuring that waste is managed in an environmentally sound manner, but also by working towards a sound materials-cycle society.”
Molewa added that the recycling of waste remained a significant part of the manufacturing sector.
“It is important to work together towards ensuring that the waste material finds its way back into the manufacturing chain so as to advance our commitment to a circular economy and employment creation interventions, particularly within the green economy space,” she noted.
Mpact CEO Bruce Strong, meanwhile, highlighted that paper recycling rates in South Africa were ahead of global recovery rates and comparable to that of developed countries.
“The key to this level of recycling is the demand for recycled products from paper manufacturers. In Mpact’s case, this comes through innovative projects and investments, such as the liquid packaging recycling plant being unveiled today,” he said.
Strong pointed out that the recovery rate of all paper grades available for recycling in South Africa was 68% in 2016, representing 1.4-million tons of 2-million tons of paper; however, when it came to paper packaging grades, this figure was estimated to be in excess of 80%.
With traditional sources of recovered paper in South Africa in short supply, mainly owing to increased demand from paper manufacturers locally and abroad, he added that the recovered paper from the liquid packaging products at the Springs mill would provide Mpact with an alternative source of high-quality recycled fibre, which was currently being landfilled.
“Other than sustained demand, cost-effective collection and the aggregation of recyclables for beneficiation is critical in maintaining high levels of recycling. This is best achieved through public–private partnerships and real interventions on the ground,” Strong added.
Meanwhile, packaging company Tetra Pak Middle East and Africa sustainability director Rodney Reynders told Engineering News Online that Mpact’s new recycling facility was a highly engineered solution for disassembling beverage cartons and extracting paper fibres.
“The mill can efficiently reuse the fibre to create many other products such as corrugated cardboard boxes to point-of-sale material,” he said.
He noted that the mill, which uses technology developed by Tetra Pak engineers, would contribute to increasing recycling rates in South Africa.
Reynders added that Tetra Pak was also developing solutions for recycling the remaining polyalu (layers of polyethylene and aluminium) component of the beverage carton.
“Today, we recycle 16% of liquid board packaging in South Africa. Although recycling used beverage carton packs already started in South Africa a few years ago, the partnership announced today enormously stimulates that process,” he said.