Shabeer Jhetam, CEO of The Glass Recycling Company, tells u|Chief about how glass recycling benefits the economy as well as the environment.
- Photos: Consol
What are the cost benefits to the economy of recycling?
Glass recycling by lower income groups certainly contributes to the informal economy, although not always a long-term model for employment, the facilitation of waste for recycling has become a vital source of income for thousands for collectors.
“You can reuse glass containers since they don’t pose harmful risks to environmental or personal health. Glass does not leak potentially harmful chemicals such as BPA when in contact with food.”
Glass vs plastic… what should people think about in terms of purchasing either from a store? And for manufacturers or business people, what should they think of before ordering or manufacturing using either material?
Personally, I believe glass is a far safer and less harmful packaging option, as the environmental impact of glass is significantly less than that of other packaging. Glass is chemically inserted, meaning no harmful chemical or toxins are released into the environment. You can reuse glass containers since they don’t pose harmful risks to environmental or personal health. Glass does not leak potentially harmful chemicals such as BPA when in contact with food.
Glass is also recognised as safe in stringent global health and consumer legislation. The European Commission recommends glass as the safest packaging for feeding bottles intended for infants. It doesn’t contain BPA and it is safe for human health. Also, U.S. legislation acknowledges glass as one of the few packaging materials Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS).
In addition, when glass is recycled it gets turned in another glass bottle, a perfect example of closed-loop recycling, the most efficient and least harmful manner of recycling. Glass can be recycled endlessly without losing quality or its integrity.
Plastic bottles, cannot be recycled infinitely and thereby adhere to closed loop recycling as they aren’t often recycled back into plastic bottles. Plastic loses its integrity and needs to be turned into something different such as plastic lumber or carpet padding. Because of this, some people say that in certain instances plastic isn’t truly recycled but, rather, it’s downcycled, although this isn’t always the case.
The fact that glass can be infinitely recycled without ever losing its purity or quality speaks to the power this packaging alternative has to reduce the country’s carbon footprint.
For every ton of glass recycled 1.2 tons of raw materials are saved and some 670 kilograms of carbon is prevented from being released into the atmosphere
“Some people say that in certain instances plastic isn’t truly recycled but, rather, it’s downcycled, although this isn’t always the case.”
What are some of the environmental benefits of closed-loop recycling for South Africa?
- Effective conservation of non-renewable natural resources. For every ton of recycled glass used in the manufacturing of new glass packaging, 1.2 tons of non-renewable natural resources are saved.
- Reduction of the presence of waste by-products (as a result of manufacturing) in the natural environment.
- The creation of employment opportunities – both in the recycling and glass collection industries.
- Reduction in pollution. Glass produced from recycled glass reduces related air pollution by 20% and water pollution by 50%.
For every ton of recycled glass used in the manufacturing of new glass packaging, 1.2 tons of non-renewable natural resources are saved.
How much can unemployed ‘bin pickers’ (or even small recycling operators) earn from recycling glass?
Incomes vary dependent on many factors, such as how much glass they collect, the area they are working in and how much they work, and another factor would be whether or not they have transport.
Many collectors earn an informal income this way, however, a formalised waste and recycling economy, such as separation at source, could create additional employment that could employ individuals in more stable formal sector.
Many collectors earn a living this way until they are able to find more sustainable, longer-term employment.
Moderately-sized entrepreneurs own viable businesses selling recyclables back to manufacturers. This may be in the form of buy-back centres or by providing transport for clearing glass banks. For example, both of the packaging glass manufacturers in South Africa, who are shareholders of TGRC, have committed to buy back all glass returned to them for recycling.
What ways do you know of for these individuals to increase their collection yields?
Entrepreneurs ought to approach various business where large volumes of product packaged in glass are used, for example, restaurants and bars. There are certainly opportunities to increase glass collection. In addition, entrepreneurs can service larger areas by picking up glass in townships, as well as address the needs of, and service more of, the hospitality industry.
- The Glass Recycling Company (TGRC) is the national recycling body mandated to increase recycling in South Africa. It is a not for profit organisation that is passionate about ensuring that every South African realises the value of recycling glass and actively embraces this practice.
TGRC was established following a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2005, with the Department of Environmental Affairs. The role of the organisation is to increase glass reuse through returnable bottles and recycling in South Africa. In 10 short years, TGRC have increased the glass recycling rate from 18% to 41.1%.
In addition, they support Government’s principles and guidelines for transformation striving to develop more entrepreneurs in the formal and informal sectors by assisting in creating income generating opportunities and skills transfer to historically disadvantaged South Africans.