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Waste sector is a gem – President Ramaphosa

The South African economy is on the cusp of unlocking the potential of a largely unexploited sector with the launch of Operation Phakisa Chemicals and Waste (OPCW) Economy.

Speaking at the launch of OPCW recently, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the country was poised to create thousands of businesses, which in turn would create hundreds of thousands of jobs directly and through waste management spin-offs.

The President highlighted that waste is a multi-billion rand industry waiting to be tapped into.

He said the National Waste Management Strategy aims to increase the contribution of the waste sector to the green economy, in line with the objectives of the National Development Plan.

“This is a sector that has the potential to create 69 000 new jobs and empower more small, medium and micro-sized enterprises (SMMEs) and cooperatives. The chemicals industry, valued at R426 billion, is another growth area. OPCW has a number of detailed action plans that need to deliver results by 2023,” he said.

The OPCW action plans include increasing the total contribution of the waste economy from R24.3 billion to R35.8 billion and creating 127 000 new direct and indirect jobs, said President Ramaphosa.

OPCW will support mostly youth and women-driven SMMEs.

“Today we are seeing Phakisa projects coming to life. The plan is to provide support to 4 300 SMMEs, with 70 percent targeted at youth and at least 30 percent targeted at women,” said the President.

He added that the current landfills system used in local municipalities is not sustainable in the long run and that waste should instead be recycled as far as possible.

“Ultimately, we want to see more than 20 million tons of waste diverted from landfills. We know corporate citizens have been busy in labs for a long time and it has come alive through all these projects we’ve been detailing today. This means indeed we are about to take off.”

President Ramaphosa said there is a lot of scope for growth in the waste industry, describing the sector as a gem waiting to be discovered.

“When you talk about 140 million tons of waste, 25 percent of which is utilised and processed, it means we are sitting on a diamond mine because along the way there are wonderful gems that can lead to the creation of companies. SMMEs can be created in their thousands and we can create an important sector that can contribute enormously to the GDP of our country,” he said.

Private sector on board

President Ramaphosa said the support of the private sector would further cement the success of Operation Phakisa initiatives and the Good Green Deeds campaign.

He applauded partners and private sector companies such as Coca-Cola and Samsung for coming on board.

Global electronics giant Samsung pledged R27 million towards e-waste management initiatives while an investment of R227 million over the next three years was pledged by Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa and Coca-Cola Peninsula Beverages, to stimulate recycling industries.

“We are thankful for the pledges from the business sector. The R227 million pledged by Coca-Cola will go towards stimulating recycling industries and accelerating formal community recycling projects.”

He said a further R13.7 million will be invested in the Eastern Cape, where recycling campaigns have started in Buffalo City, and the other targeted bigger townships and towns in the province.

According to Buffalo City Metro (BCM) Mayor Xola Phakati, OPCW is one of the biggest sustainable projects launched in the metro.

President Ramaphosa said it is heartening that local government has embraced the initiative and has come up with a strategy for waste management.

“The BCM strategy shows that they are prepared to make it work. We want more local governments to do that. When you come up with a strategy, the private sector will come in and support you because they see that you are serious,” said Ramaphosa.

“South African Breweries has also made a commitment to the tune of R3 million to support BCM in waste management. We have a number of other companies that have already made pledges to work with us in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.”

According to Environmental Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane, a team from Swedish organisation SIDA committed R8 million to address household hazardous waste challenges.

President Ramaphosa said cumulatively, the private sector and international partners have committed R1.4 billion towards waste management initiatives in Buffalo City.

In his State of the Nation Address, the President said setting up incubation centres was important to support emerging SMMEs.

“Now I’m even more convinced that we should have these incubation centres and they should focus on assisting those SMMEs that are going to be created in the waste management sector,” he said, explaining that the waste sector offers a multiplicity of benefits and initiatives.

Inspiration from Africa and beyond

“As we travel around the world to places like Sweden, we are often envious of how clean the cities are. One of the cleanest cities is Kigali, right here on our own continent in Rwanda. They have embarked on this incredible journey of cleaning up their environment, led by President Paul Kagame.

“They nominate a day in the month where they all go out and clean their environment. Now we have arrived at this historic day in the life of our country. What we are about to do here is launch a massive campaign which I think should be all-consuming and going on around the country.”

He said citizens should become more conscious of their impact on the environment and take measures to clean up the planet.

“We should look after our planet because climate change is something that all of us as South Africans must begin to deal with and to embrace much more seriously. We must ensure that our planet becomes cleaner, safer and more sustainable so that we can leave a country and a world that we can bequeath to our children and our great-grandchildren.”

He urged South Africans to begin looking at waste from an economic perspective. “We would like to spread the message to all our citizens that when we look at a piece of paper on the ground, we should look at it as something that can contribute to job creation and the success of our companies.”

Waste recycling business creating jobs

Phumeza Ceshemba’s business is an example of the opportunities in the waste sector.

Her waste recycling business in Fort Jackson on the outskirts of Mdantsane has helped Ceshemba and dozens of other families make a living.

Ceshemba learnt about the waste recycling business from her mother and is driven by a passion to protect the environment from harmful toxins.

She started Afriwaste in 2017 and co-owns it with her husband Thozamile. The plastic pelletisation plant is a beacon for the Eastern Cape’s recycling initiatives and currently has 17 employees while dozens of other families benefit through spin-offs.

Afriwaste has been lauded as a beacon of success for not only the black industrialist programme, but also Operation Phakisa.

Chemicals and Waste initiative

President Ramaphosa, Minister Mokonyane, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Zweli Mkhize, Premier Phumulo Masualle and various government leaders visited the plant recently.

Ceshemba said Afriwaste collects and sorts waste plastics, including carry bags and plastic, bottles. They are washed and turned into pellets, which are raw plastic that can be further processed and turned into other plastic products.

Her business has a ripple effect on various SMMEs as well as their employees.

“We’ve got a workers’ trust and 17 people employed here are benefiting. However, there’s more out there. We’ve got over 100 beneficiaries. We collect from the cooperatives and waste pickers. They are also beneficiaries of this waste management initiative. We collect from landfills as well and what is so impactful about our business is the fact that we take even the dirtiest plastic since we are the only company in the Eastern Cape that washes plastic.

“We manufacture what we call pellets which are used in recycled furniture, toys and plastic bags. We sell to businesses that are higher up in the value chain. We anticipate that one day we will have our own (end) products,” she said.

Ceshemba said she first got into the waste recycling business when she was inspired by her mother’s drive to recycle.

“The initiative was inspired by my mother, who was also into recycling when I was growing up. She used to collect plastics and make drums out of that waste,” she said, adding that funding from the government made her dreams a reality.

Ceshemba said it is important to create environmentally conscious businesses to protect the environment.

“Plastic toxins can seep into groundwater, which people drink every day. On land, wind can carry plastic waste throughout the environment. The processing of waste plastic has a significant impact on the environment,” she said.

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