Due to rapid population growth and urbanisation, South Africa generates significantly more waste than it did a few decades ago. Placing our already stretched landfill under pressure. Our lack of waste service delivery caused by hugely increased demand leads creation of illegal landfills/rubbish dump sites, often resulting in increased levels of pollution in the environment. The 2021 Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulation is therefore serving as a critical catalyst in holding businesses accountable for waste management and recycling.
In fact, under EPR legislation, manufacturers are responsible for the end of life of their product and packaging. This isn’t a new concept, but it is gaining considerable traction today, according to Shabeer Jhetam, CEO of The Glass Recycling Company, the sole Producer Responsibility Organisation (PRO) for glass packaging in South Africa.
When the EPR came into effect in South Africa in 2021, firms had to adhere to a set of stringent targets and mandates, TGRC’s membership grew from 18 to 90 members, in need of an EPR scheme to facilitate their glass packaging responsibility. This resulted from taking ownership of their carbon footprints and acting proactively in response to national concerns about glass resources and its ecological consequences. Among the industries that work with the PRO are food and beverage, pharmaceutical, cosmetics and beauty.
It can be argued that more consumer education will enhance consumer awareness of packaging’s effects on the environment, thereby making eco-focused brands more competitive across these sectors, consumer preference for eco-savvy brands and producers is certainly on the increase.
“We take our responsibilities and goals towards the environment very seriously at TGRC, and we strive to nurture a sustainable glass collection supply chain along the way. By encouraging and helping to facilitate the recycling of glass bottles and jars, we do more than just reduce landfill burdens, but also reduce carbon emissions and eliminate costs associated with waste collection, clean-up operations, and disposal,” says Jhetam.
“Although initially when legislation was introduced there have been concerns raised about EPR fees and the financial impact of EPR on businesses, many producers are now opting to be operationally and financially accountable for their waste, which is leading to an increase in recycling and other circular economy activities, further bolstering the demand for EPR in the country,” Jhetam adds.
TGRC has placed 4,017 glass banks throughout the country to facilitate the recycling of glass packaging to aid in the circularity of glass. These glass banks are routinely maintained and serviced by SMMEs, allowing these businesses to expand their recycling efforts and spread awareness of the advantages of recycling. However, this recycling ecosystem needs to be nurtured, supported and protected. 80% of the glass packaging used in the country is either reused or recycled, preventing it from reaching landfill.
TGRC together with numerous SMMEs, buyback centres and collectors facilitate the recycling of glass packaging to aid in the circularity of glass. Contrasting packaging materials produced in South Africa, glass has one of the highest recycled content percentages. “We believe that, by working together with the businesses we serve, we can create a sustainable environment for future generations of South Africans,” concludes Jhetam.