Business Maverick


Packa-Ching initiative gives informal settlement residents a cash incentive to recycle waste

Packa-Ching initiative gives informal settlement residents a cash incentive to recycle waste
More than 10 million kilogrammes of waste diverted from landfill by Packa-Ching, a Polyco recycling initiative supported by Shoprite. (Photo: Supplied)

The initiative, which has paid out more than R10-million, is showing community members that their recyclable waste has value.

A recycling initiative, which gives residents of informal settlements an incentive to recycle, has paid out more than R10-million to community members while saving more than 10 million kilogrammes of waste from landfill. 

Packa-Ching, a Polyco recycling drive supported by Shoprite and Sasol, supports micro business owners to pay community members for recyclable household packaging, including plastic, glass, paper and cans. The Packa-Ching units are mobile, bringing recycling to residents’ doorsteps.

While collecting the recyclables helps to clean the environment, the enterprise-operated, mobile separation-at-source service also helps to educate the public and create income-earning opportunities.

Polyco was established in 2011 by a group of polyolefin plastic-packaging converters to deal with polymer identification codes 2, 4, 5 and 7. 

The collective term for polyethylene and polypropylene is polyolefins. They are the most widely used plastics in food packaging industries.

Polyco members pay a fee for every tonne of virgin polymer purchased from raw material suppliers, and in turn, ensure that their extended producer responsibilities are performed by Polyco.

Packa-Ching operators weigh recyclables and pay community members instantly via eWallet to eliminate logistical and security risks associated with cash payments. The funds can be used at any participating retailer or withdrawn or transferred to others in South Africa.

Members of the recycling initiative. (Photo: Supplied)

The first Packa-Ching mobile unit was launched in Langa, Cape Town, in August 2017. It has since been rolled out in seven provinces, with the 15th unit recently launched in Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal. 

Packa-Ching appoints business owners from Level 1 and Level 2 BEE-owned SMMEs in the recycling industry, to own and run a Packa-Ching unit in selected areas.

Business owners must employ between three to five staff in their business to work on their team, increasing job creation opportunities.

Successfully appointed operators are given a trailer, equipment, financial support, an operations manual and access to a network of formal collectors. 

Phila Dlamini, co-owner of Mpilenhle Packa-Ching in Newcastle, explained: “Newcastle is a job-scarce area and we’ve seen the positive impact that our first unit had on our business and the community. As more people see value in recycling, the demand has grown tremendously. 

“People can earn a living, and with our new unit we’ve created five permanent jobs.”

Servicing more than 80 communities and schools across the country, Packa-Ching has created more than 57 new jobs since inception through the Shoprite Group’s participation in the YES (Youth Employment Service) initiative, which is a collaboration between the government, business and labour to fight youth unemployment.

In a statement, John Ndava, the project manager for Packa-Ching in Philippi, said Shoprite got involved when they started the Packa-Ching Mobile buy-back centre. 

“Through their sponsorship and support, we are able to pay the employees. We have created employment for them … they are able to take care of their families. The education involved helps enhance their personal development and prepares them for further opportunities within the waste and recycling industry,” said Ndava.

Last week, producer responsibility organisation Petco revealed that its members had placed 121,369 tonnes of packaging on the South African market, comprising mainly PET beverage bottles, home and personal care bottles, edible oil bottles, food bottles and jars, plus their associated labels and closures, as well as PET strapping, shrink sleeves and thermoformed plastics.

Of this volume, 69%, or 83 967 tonnes of post-consumer packaging, was collected for recycling. A total of 66% was recycled. 

Petco members include Pick n Pay, Woolworths, Unilever, Tiger Brands, Tetra Pak, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.

Formed in 2004, Petco assists members with the sustainable design of product packaging and supports the nationwide collection and recycling of PET bottles and their plastic closures and labels.

Recycling is a major industry in South Africa that provides jobs and drives the circular economy. South Africa recycles 61.4% of its paper and 66% of PET plastic, along with high rates of metal and glass recycling. 

It has one of the most effective recycling industries worldwide. DM

To read all about Daily Maverick’s recent The Gathering: Earth Edition, click here.

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