Nampak group investor relations manager, Zanele Salman, on the importance of the four Rs, clean-up initiatives and working with SMMEs


Q: Many people are under the impression that packaging is a major contributor to the waste stream in SA. Is that true?
This isn’t the case. In fact, according to Packaging SA, the total annual waste to landfill is 107 million tons, of which packaging accounts for 1.82 million tons or 2%. The average for developing nations is 3%.

Q: In what way do industry initiatives like Collect-A-Can, PETCO and the Glass Recycling Company contribute to recycling?
They are major contributors to the reduction of the amount of packaging waste to landfill. If they weren’t in place, Packaging SA estimates that packaging waste to landfill would be 6.08 million tons or over 6% [of waste]. This is 200% more than current levels and twice the average for a developing nation.

Q: What role does Nampak play in the above organisations?
Nampak is a founding member of both the Glass Recycling Company and PETCO, while Collect-A-Can is a joint venture between Nampak and ArcelorMittal. We’re also members of the Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa, as well as the Paper Recycling Association of South Africa, South African Industrial Containers Reconditioners Association and the Polyolefin Recycling Company. Furthermore, members of the Nampak executive serve on many of the boards of these organisations, and from time to time Nampak contributes financially towards the development of recycling opportunities.

Q: Much is made of the four Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle and recover. How are these incorporated into Nampak’s environmental strategy?
A: These principles have been the cornerstone of our environmental strategy since as far back as 1995, when we pioneered the development of the first single-piece PET bottle, which was both energy-efficient and recyclable. As a packaging company, recycling and energy efficiency are key to ensuring the competitiveness of our factories. Energy reduction initiatives together with continued environmental education and management ensure that we run responsible operations that have minimum impact on our environment.Through various initiatives our employees are encouraged to reduce, reuse and recycle. For example, all our offices and factories have dedicated bins for plastic, paper, metal, glass and general waste.

Q: Where does Nampak’s R&D division fit into operations?
Our research and development department has made significant progress in our light-weighting and recycling programmes. Nampak Glass uses up to 55% cullet [waste glass] in the bottle-manufac-turing process; our 10 kg potato bag from Nampak Sacks is 12.5% lighter, while our cement bags are 100% compostable; Nampak Megapak manufactures reusable plastic crates and drums moulded from 100% recycled HDPE [high-density polyethylene] and Unilever’s Sunlight Liquid bottle contains 25% recycled PET, while Clover’s Tropika bottle contains 20% recycled PET.

Q: How does Nampak work with SMMEs and BBBEE entrepreneurs regarding recycling?
At Nampak Glass, we operate a state-of-the-art cullet-processing plant, which purchases more than 80 000 tons of waste glass from over 4 000 SMME suppliers. The Waste Materials Recovery System Facility, at Skukuza in the Kruger National Park, has presented the company with an opportunity to identify a black entrepreneur who can be assisted in establishing a viable small business, thereby creating and maintaining sustainable jobs. At an industry level, recycling initiatives have created more than 90 000 jobs for collectors of packaging waste material. The identification of projects that create demand for post-consumer packaging waste, including opportunities for SMMEs and BBBEE entrepreneurs, is ongoing.

‘Recycling initiatives have created more than 90 000 jobs for collectors of packaging waste material’

Q: Run us through your glass, paper, metal and plastic divisions…
We’re part of the JSE sustainability [JSE SRI] index and our environmental policy commits all businesses in the group to pursuing green quality standards, primarily in the form of ISO 14001. Nampak Glass has become the first SA company to be recommended by SGS South Africa for ISO 50001: 2011 certification. Investment in the cullet plant has given us the means to collect waste glass, which is then used in the manufacturing process, signifi-cantly reducing the demand for energy and cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Nampak Recycling collects approximately 19% of the total paper recycled in SA. We use it in our paper mills for a range of corrugated boxes and personal hygiene products, such as tissues and toilet paper. Nampak Corrugated has increased the amount of recycled paper in its board. Investment in a brown-paper mill is enabling its ongoing success.

Nampak Bevcan is in the process of completing the conversion from steel to aluminium beverage cans. As aluminium has a higher intrinsic scrap value, the move will increase the recycling rate of metals. It’s also 60% lighter than steel and uses 10% less energy in the manufacturing process. Our plastics divisions are actively involved in industry bodies such as PETCO and Plastics SA. They support the Enviromark campaign and the responsible sourcing of raw materials made possible by globally benchmarked initiatives, like the FSC Chain of Custody Certification programme.

Q: Many people would most likely recycle if it were easier to do so. Ideally, how should SA be going about this?
SA’s current recycling rates are generally competitive against other countries. For example, SA is ranked in the top tier of recycling for beverage cans and it collects and recycles more glass than the US. Household separation at source provides an ideal and convenient opportunity for people to recycle more, and this is likely to grow in future years.

Q: What role does municipal and govern-ment initiatives play in recycling?
The proposed Industry Waste Management Plan requires collaboration between central government, provincial government and municipalities in order to succeed. To obtain clean and uncontaminated material, municipalities will need to expand source-separated collection and sorting facilities, and collection models to support various housing types. A good example of this is the Trash to Treasure campaign currently being run by the City of Johannesburg and Pikitup, in partnership with Nampak Recycling and various other industry bodies. This initiative involves the separation of household waste, which Pikitup collects and off-loads at co-operative sites in the city, including Diepsloot, Soweto and Orange Farm. To ensure the sustainability of the co-ops, Nampak Recycling provides support by loaning them tools such as open bins, scales and bags; providing training and buying back recycling material at competitive rates.

‘SA is ranked in the top tier of recycling for beverage cans and it recycles more glass than the US’

Q: What are some of the products that can be made from recycled substances?
Post-consumer waste is collected, recycled and used in the production of new packaging. Post-industrial waste [when waste is no longer suitable for recycling] such as chip packets can be repurposed as warehouse pallets and school chairs. Nearly 40% of PET is recycled for staple fibres, such as carpeting, clothing, coat hangers, shade cloth, irrigation pipes and shopping trolleys.

Q: What about clean-up initiatives? How does Nampak help with these?
Our rigid plastics divisions participate in initiatives, like cleaning up the nearly 20 000 kg of waste from the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town, as well as various coastal clean-ups. Additionally, they have undertaken various CSI programmes including sponsorship of the Orange river project – the first-ever attempt to riverboard 2 460 km from source to sea of SA’s longest river. The project succeeded in raising awareness of water pollution and the need for proper disposal of litter for recycling.

Our metal divisions sponsored the Trekking for Trash initiative, which aimed to clean up SA by doing something bold – walking along the 2 700 km coastline from Alexander Bay to Kosi Bay to create awareness of litter and collecting waste for recycling along the way. In celebration of Clean-Up South Africa Week and Recycling Day 2014, Collect-A-Can, Nampak Bevcan and Nampak DivFood hosted a Recycling for South Africa campaign in September this year. The clean-up campaign called on the public to collect as many used cans as possible, sell the cans at the pop-up buy-back centres and join Nampak during the community clean-ups on Fridays.

By Patrick Farrell
Image: Gallo/GettyImages, iStockPhoto