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YOUNG people were encouraged to explore opportunities in the waste and recycling industry at a recent summit in Johannesburg, hosted by Pikitup.

Acting Pikitup MD Lawrence Boya says young people should appreciate the value of wasteThe gathering took place at the Braamfontein Recreation Centre on Friday, 22 June, and it gave young people an insight into the waste and recycling industry and the opportunities that exist in the sector. Experts drawn from Pikitup, the City’s waste management utility, and the private industry gave tips on how young people could tap into the industry.

Issues such as waste minimisation, recycling, climate change and illegal dumping were covered. The summit was opened by Pikitup’s youth officer, Tumelo Thakheli, who said that waste and the recycling industry provided an opportunity for young people to create something for themselves.

In his keynote address, Pikitup’s acting managing director, Lawrence Boya, urged participants to be active partners in the war against reckless consumption and use of finite resources. “Young people need to understand and appreciate the value of waste and how it should be treated and managed in a responsible and beneficial manner,” said Boya.

He pointed out that waste management solutions such as separation of refuse at household level and recycling should be embraced to save the environment. “If we continue to exploit our natural heritage in an unsustainable manner, there will not be a brighter future for generations to come.”

There were some huge opportunities in the waste and recycling industry, he said, citing the examples of cleaning open spaces, bin cleaning, waste reclamation and recycling. “Others are involved in the business of waste transportation. We want to encourage more young people to take advantage of these and other opportunities,” he said.

Waste was not rubbish but was a resource from which people could earn a living, he explained.

Shadrack Kapiwa, Pikitup’s general manager of communications and stakeholder management, spoke about the harmful effects of illegal dumping on a settlement. “Illegal dumping interferes with proper drainage and makes areas more prone to flooding. [It attracts] vermin and creates an ideal breeding ground for rats,” he explained.

kapiwa Shadrack Kapiwa speaks about the effects of illegal dumpingKapiwa added that Pikitup spent more than R18-million on clearing illegal dumping, instead of using the money for other important developments. He blamed illegal dumping on a lack of community involvement in planning the waste management service.

“In South Africa, the political, social, environmental and technical factors create a unique dynamic in which the challenges are so diverse that problems cannot be solved by scaling the existing level of services.”

Roelf de Beer, the Pikitup project manager, spoke about the importance of recycling. “Recycling helps in preventing global climate change to a great extent. By minimising the energy spent on industrial production, it also helps in reducing greenhouse gas emission.”

He elaborated on how products such as cans, bottles, boxes, old newspapers, and plastic and detergent bottles could be recycled. “Plastic products can be broken down into small, tiny granules. These granules can be sold to moulders and manufacturers of various plastic products,” explained De Beer. “These granules act as recycled raw materials. New items can be easily made out of this processed recycled plastic.”

He told the gathering that Pikitup would be rolling out separation at source projects in Ivory Park, Soweto, Diepsloot and Orange Farm from 1 July. “Households will be given two bags per week, which will collected by co-operatives, which will take them to sorting facilities.”

Separation at source is a recycling initiative that encourages residents and businesses to separate their recyclable waste into different receptacles, depending on the category; for example, into green waste, paper, bottles and glass.

roelf de beer Pikitup project manager Roelf de Beer shows material that can be recycledThe aim of separation at source is to divert waste from rapidly filling landfill sites. De Beer added that recycling jobs were stable and fast growing because there would always be waste.

Plastic bottles
Kea Nkitseng, the communications manager at Petco, the company involved in recycling plastic, agreed that it was possible to earn a living by collecting recyclables such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET), or plastic used to package bottled water, carbonated soft drinks, juice, household cleaners and food trays.

“It has so many more uses once you have finished using it. We need to keep it out of the waste stream and make sure it does not go to the landfills,” she explained. “In South Africa, polyethylene terephthalate bottles are not exported but are mechanically recycled into fibre filling for duvets, pillows, fleece jackets, automotive parts, insulation and geo-textiles.”

Last year, Petco collected almost 38 000 tons of PET. Over 18 000 income opportunities were created through the material being used to make many new products. In South Africa, two million bottles were recycled daily. “Recycling one ton of PET plastic bottles saves 1,5 tons of carbon. It also decreases the need for raw materials and saves energy.”

Recycling of PET would help to reduce the impact of climate change and address the energy deficit, Nkitseng explained.

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