As Africa's largest manufacturer of flexible packaging, Nampak Flexible is currently producing some exciting results in the multi-layer plastics recycling arena through projects that focus on absorbing plastic waste from their operations.
"Our goal is to focus on areas where we can get the most waste absorbed as quickly as possible," says Jonathan Welch, Nampak Flexible's environmental specialist, who specialises in developing products from waste. Nampak Flexible has not only found a way to absorb this waste quickly, but to do it to the benefit of their clients and greater communities too. "With surplus waste from their own products, we have developed an ability to offer customers a unique and individualised waste product solution that they can be proud of," says Welch.
Nampak Flexible recently activated a unique sorting and streaming system for all of its post industrial waste to allow maximum recovery and reprocessing back into products through various technologies and processes. One process makes material available to NGOs where it is up-cycled into a range of products that can be produced for customers. Examples of such products include bags, bowls, collapsible bins, benches and pallets to mention but a 'few'.
Nampak Flexible is even using technology to reprocess its own waste for reuse internally by making pallets that are currently being used in the company's warehouses as an alternative to wooden pallets.
Nampak Flexible sees much value in the projects and is already preventing tons of waste per month across its core operations from being thrown into landfills. "This is only the beginning, the target is to get our landfill down to zero," says Gerald Chotu, Nampak Flexible's technical director. But the recycling of this waste is not just an environmental issue alone; there are social and economic benefits for NGO's and local communities too.
Nampak Flexible is currently working with two NGO's to find applications for its factory waste while simultaneously giving participating customers great exposure and a waste recycling solution. Nampak Flexible KZN recently initiated their BAG4LIFE project and teamed up with the well-known Hillcrest Aids Centre. The first customer to participate in this project was Unilever; the result is highly creative, hand crafted and versatile bags that simultaneously promote some well-known brands and generate an income for those affected or infected by HIV or AIDS. This particular project creates employment for talented crafters who benefit directly from their work. "With some NGO's, much of the funds never find their way to those they are intended for, but in this case 70 to 80 percent of the purchase price goes directly to the crafter," says Welch.
Nampak Flexible is also looking ahead at opportunities to supply schools with injection-moulded chairs produced from post-industrial flexible waste; the company is already involved with a similar project supplying kids tables and chairs to crèches in the local KwaZulu-Natal area.
"The recycling initiatives are a great start and our company has a long-term vision of these projects as a mechanism to cope with customers' post-industrial waste, and ultimately with post-consumer waste too. All of the knowledge generated from our recycling work is also currently being shared with the MLPF (Multi Layer Packaging Forum). Ultimately we want a cleaner and MORE environmentally friendly South Africa and we believe we're on the right track," says Robin Moore, Nampak Flexible managing director.
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