Packaging waste is a major challenge that many businesses are facing today. The rapid growth of South Africa’s population and increased urbanisation has led to an increase in per capita waste generation, which places stress on current landfills.
As a pro-active response to the growing national concern around waste and its impact on society and the environment, our government published the Section 18 Regulations to the National Environmental Management: Waste Act on 5 November 2020, which refers to the Extended Producer Responsibility aspect of the National Environmental Management Waste Act. These regulations came into effect on 5 May 2021.
The Section 18 regulations are a welcome step forward towards a more collaborative approach between government and industry. This legislation makes Extended Producer Responsibility mandatory for all producers and importers of packaging.
It changes how producers, brand owners, retailers and importers design, make, sell and keep their products in the recycling loop as far as possible. Strict targets have been set by Government for yearly collection and recycling, that need to be met over the next five years.
All companies involved in the value chain must work together to ensure that less waste goes to landfills. Instead of supporting the outdated, linear approach of producing, using and discarding plastic packaging waste that continues to hold value after it has been used, there is a focus on developing a true circular economy within South Africa. This means the value of waste is never lost, but is kept within the economy by ensuring that these materials are reused and recycled into many new and useful materials.
Different everyday products inevitably come in some sort of packaging and packaging has many different roles. These include providing protection, safety, enhanced usability, attractive looks, optimal design and specific customer requirements. However, what is often perceived with packaging, is a single-use purpose.
Packaging is there to fulfil its mission – one time only. Either it is pulled off in order to start using the product it holds inside, or it is thrown away as soon as the packaging content runs out. The result is the same. It is there just temporarily.
Packaging waste has become a massive global challenge. Our single-use culture has radically increased the amount of packaging waste we create by person on a daily, weekly, monthly and annually basis. A growing number of businesses, organisations and academia are trying to find renewable and more sustainable replacements for conventional packaging materials that can be fully and safely reused, recycled and decomposed.
Effective waste management plans can help reduce waste and save the environment. One way to make your company more environmentally friendly is proper waste management. Adopting sustainable packaging is one of the most significant challenges a company faces.
Nonetheless, there are some very effective measures you can gradually take to do your bit:
Train your employees in environmental sustainability
In order to practice what your company truly believes in, the very first step to take is to educate employees about waste management as they are highly involved in the operations of the business.
Minimal packaging is key
Your organisation can cut down on packaging by either reducing the size of the packaging to fit the product and/or reducing the thickness of the packaging – this is ultimately termed light weighting.
Reduce the amount of waste produced
To control the amount of waste produced, the amount of packaging being used must be checked. Regular audits of all production processes must be conducted and the usage must be optimised in order to reduce the amount of waste produced as much as possible. Furthermore, a consistent review will help you discover waste streams that may lead to landfilling of product which you can eliminate from your process.
Be innovative with your packaging
It is possible to produce a premium product, whilst making sure that any further innovation is sustainable and makes financial and business sense.
Implement an on-site recycling programme
You can effectively reduce the amount of packaging waste going to landfill by identifying what can and cannot be recycled, and what is potentially hazardous waste. Business owners can also be assured of legal compliance through the implementation of on-site waste management solutions.
Mpact Waste Management, the on-site waste management division under Mpact’s recycling business, is committed to transforming waste into value that enables a better, more sustainable environment and, in some cases, it can even create a revenue stream.
Waste generated from businesses (which includes recyclables, e-waste, food and organics) is analysed and sorted on site by Mpact Waste Management. Collection is then done on site by our team. For non-recyclable waste, our team of experts devise sustainable non-landfill solutions: for example, food and organic waste go to a composting facility.
Recyclables are delivered to an Mpact Recycling branch for processing. Recovered paper material is supplied to paper mills, including our own Mpact paper mills, to be processed back into paper. This is then used to manufacture innovative board products, sold to the SA packaging industry. Other recovered material is sold onto other recyclers for conversion into glass, plastic and paper products.
These products end up being used by your business and so the process starts all over again, paving the way towards a circular economy.