Newly appointed board member Chanda Nxumalo shares Exxaro’s climate change vision

Exxaro recently announced the appointment to its board of a trailblazer in the climate change and renewable energy space. Chanda Joanne Nxumalo is the resource company’s latest Independent Non-Executive Director, and she’s set to play a key role in Exxaro’s energy growth strategy.

Nxumalo is an electrical engineer by training, having also obtained a master’s degree in engineering, economics and management from the University of Oxford. With over 15 years of experience working locally and internationally in the renewable energy sector, Nxumalo has the know-how to support Exxaro’s focus on realising value through clean and renewable energy.

She started her career as an engineer, tightening nuts and bolts on wind turbines in the United States before making the move to working on energy projects across Africa as a renewable energy consultant. This means that she truly understands all aspects of the renewable energy business.

As a lifelong learner, Nxumalo is looking forward to expanding her knowledge and skill set as a result of joining such an experienced and knowledgeable board. “My passion is driving change, and Exxaro has a very exciting strategy to drive sustainability and to facilitate a Just Transition both in the minerals and energy sectors,” she explains

Although our economy is still reliant on coal-powered energy, Nxumalo is excited about the opportunities we have to reimagine a renewable energy future for the country. “South Africa has an endowment of not only coal and minerals but also of renewable energy potential with options that include solar, wind, hydro and other new technologies. As a country, we can really benefit from using these resources. In South Africa, even the province with the worst solar resource has better solar resource than Germany, which has 52 gigawatts of solar energy installed. We only have 4 gigawatts of energy installed, so there is still so much potential for growth,” Nxumalo adds.

Exxaro shares this vision and has been incorporating renewable energy solutions into its portfolio since 2010. The company’s acquisition of the remaining 50% of Cennergi, which owns and operates wind farms in the Eastern Cape, is the first step on a journey to be carbon neutral by 2050.

She agrees that businesses have a critical role to play when it comes to decreasing carbon emissions and global warming. Companies need to focus on reducing carbon emissions as well as fossil fuel energy usage looking at energy efficiency measures, reducing demand and assessing the energy system holistically.

Like Exxaro, Nxumalo is passionate about ensuring a Just Transition to a low-carbon future. “We need to take into consideration the communities that we’re working with, putting in place measures to enable them to participate in the changing economies that will emerge in the future. This includes providing training and retraining for the staff of Exxaro, and also extend to finding ways to support small businesses and communities.”

As a young Black woman in the renewable energy space, she understands how important diversity and representation are if the sector is to thrive. Nxumalo recalls that the first conference she spoke at, she was the only woman, the only person of colour, and the only person younger than 25 speaking. “It’s essential to see someone like you in a position that you can aspire to. When it comes to diversity and inclusion, we need to understand that differences are strengths and not weaknesses. Without diversity, we risk not being able to progress as a company and as a society.”

Nxumalo’s message for young girls and women who want to pursue a career in the energy sector is to go for it. She sees that women often are held back by questioning themselves and self-doubt. “You are smart, you are capable, you can do this, so just do it.” She advises them to get involved and learn from the experience of others. 

Exxaro CEO Mxolisi Mgojo welcomed Nxumalo to the board, emphasising how pleased he was that her vision for the future aligned so perfectly with Exxaro’s. “By joining forces with like-minded people who share our passion for ensuring a better tomorrow, we know that our vision to power possibility through clean and renewable energy technology ventures is on track to becoming a reality,” Mgojo concluded.

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ESG: vital for robust investment strategies

Growing investor awareness and the willingness to engage in issues related to sustainability, combined with the increasingly vivid positive relationship between sustainable practices and financial performance, have cemented ESG considerations as an integral part of any robust investment strategy.

According to data from Morningstar Direct, more than $10 billion of assets in the US have been directed towards investing in sustainable funds during the first quarter of 2020 alone. These record-setting levels of flows underscore the growing significance of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) considerations when making investment decisions. Growing investor awareness and the willingness to engage in issues related to sustainability, combined with the increasingly vivid positive relationship between sustainable practices and financial performance, have cemented ESG considerations as an integral part of any robust investment strategy.

At Prescient Investment Management, our investment philosophy is capital preservation and the pragmatic management of funds. We systematically take on only those risks that have proven to deliver commensurate returns over time. We adopt a holistic and integrated approach to our investment considerations, ensuring that we deploy our clients’ capital in a manner that promotes sustainability.

We have embedded ESG integration into our investment process; our product development, the suite of ESG-centric products we offer, and our corporate culture. Prescient follow rules-based security selection and portfolio construction methods that are designed to capture excess returns by investing in those factors (sometimes referred to as smart-beta) that are proven to provide positive payoffs in the long term. Common examples of such factors are Value, Low Volatility, Quality and Momentum.

The recent proliferation of ESG as an undeniable driver of return. the consistent debunking of the historically held perception of an inverse relationship between financial returns and sustainability has made it clear that ESG can also be added to the list. We have developed a systematic and data-driven in-house ESG risk-analysis tool that evaluates and scores listed securities based on their ESG risks and opportunities.

The Prescient ESG scorecard consists of three pillars, namely: Environmental, Social and Governance. It considers material themes such as (but not limited to) diversity, board structure, emissions and energy consumption by appropriately selecting and categorising over sixty underlying metrics. This fully automated and rules-based scorecard accounts for industry materiality and company size biases and provides a granular and in-depth measure of the proficiency of the governance practices as well as the environmental and social impact of our holdings.

At a product development level, the Prescient Clean Energy and Infrastructure Debt Fund has been specifically designed to encompass our sustainable investing philosophy and impactfully deliver on our ESG targets. It participates directly at the project level of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement (REIPPP) Programme. The Fund seeks to invest in clean energy and other infrastructure projects that will have a positive social and environmental impact. The target is to build a well-diversified portfolio of infrastructure investments that will improve the sustainability of our energy supply and provide the infrastructure that is vital for the development of South Africa.

We strive to uphold and incorporate the same ESG values and principles that frame our product development and investment process at our corporate level. As South Africa’s largest black-empowered asset manager, we deem transformation and Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment to be paramount in achieving economic inclusion and a sustainable business topography in the country. We take sustainability considerations into account when allocating brokerage services, for example, as well as in any of our enterprise development undertakings.

We remain sensitive to the fact that our country is encumbered by an array of socio-economic challenges, as is reflected by our high levels of inequality and unemployment. As a corporate response, the Prescient Foundation embarks on various projects and social upliftment initiatives to address the social issues that face many South Africans.

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Lessons learned

Creating an environment conducive to self-sustainable community development during the life of mine

Livelihood resilience in mining communities is now more important than ever. New threats to self-sustainable livelihoods in these communities have emerged in the past six months.

By Lisl Fair, Principal Consultant (Sustainability), SRK Consulting

Lisl Fair (second from right) with SRK’s social transitioning during mine closure core team (From right) Adel Malebana, Ashleigh Maritz and Jessica Edwards

These threats include more mines choosing to reduce production or remain on care and maintenance post-lockdown; worldwide economic volatility; and the widespread socio-economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic affecting lower-income families disproportionally. All these factors converge into a unique opportunity to pause and ask the question: how can development practices be adjusted to increase resilience and create an environment that fosters self-sustainable community development in mining footprint areas?

Key paradigm shifts in development practice are required; notably the need to effect meaningful change that avoids perpetuating social injustice based on historical narratives and economic imbalance of power. This shift in focus involves moving beyond paternalistic practices which aim to develop for, to a participative asset-based process where mines create meaningful long-term value with communities.

The process of creating value involves focusing on longer term objectives and turning short-term ‘charity projects’ into self-sustaining enterprises that can help mining communities build their resilience and withstand fluctuations in mining activities. Success stories are rare, but increased focus among sustainability practitioners on co-creating resilient communities reflect valuable lessons on how to make this happen.

An important focus of good practice throughout the mining lifecycle is on its social impact, and how a proactive process of concurrent social self-sustainable development can make communities more resilient. This necessitates a move away from community dependence on the revenues flowing directly from the mining operation.

A non-traditional approach

Most mines contribute significantly to local social development projects in one way or another – either through regulatory requirements or through corporate social investment (CSI) initiatives. Contribution is often done without upfront consultation with recipients, which results in the recipients being excluded from taking ownership throughout the lifecycle of the development project. An example of this type of development strategy is when mines focus on developing infrastructure projects such as schools or water wells for communities. All too often these projects are developed for communities resulting in no clear community ownership and maintenance plan.

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) pressures – through regulations or responsible investors – increasingly require mines to demonstrate their local procurement spend in the public domain. To respond to this requirement, mines are gradually forming enterprise and supplier development departments to engage with and build capacity in the local supply chain. While these developments are a step in the right direction, the need for long-term economic diversification in the area makes it vital that the mine actively supports suppliers to find other customers in the region, which will avoid long-term dependency and help strengthen networks and partnerships.

Traditional approaches to community development do little to create self-sustainable communities. When funding priorities shift throughout the mining lifecycle, the impact is often devastating for the organisations and individuals who are dependent on continued mine support. There have, however, been recent practical efforts by mines to take a new approach to community projects – supporting them not just to survive but to build a sustainable foundation for a future beyond the life of the mine.

Sustaining early learning

An example of a project showing how this can be done is the Lesedi Early Childhood Development Centre near Ivanhoe Mines’ Platreef Project in South Africa’s Limpopo province. Initially funded by Ivanhoe Mines in terms of the CSI mandate within the mine’s legislated Social and Labour Plan (SLP), the centre has developed a path that supports its independence.

Started in 2011 as a volunteer organisation, Lesedi was supported by the mine in a five-year multi-pronged engagement from 2014 to 2019. The support included training courses starting in 2016 – on leadership, childcare and catering – that would foster self-sufficiency. Lesedi and the mine also collaborated on an enterprise approach to generate revenue, starting a tree nursery in 2017. In 2018, the self-sustainability training continued with a process of asset mapping, business viability testing, and a micro-MBA small business course. The project was able to expand its nursery in 2019 and to apply for funding from other social development funds.

From our experience, mines can achieve a great deal in terms of creating self-sustainable community development if they start early in the mine life cycle. To foster this process, an innovative ‘Self-Sustainability Toolkit’ has been developed to help project teams consider self-sustainability right from the beginning of the development project cycle. This toolkit is applied within a framework covering the full project life-cycle, from the initial consultation phases and benchmarking through to project self-management and independence.

The instrument keeps evidence regarding self-sustainability interventions and guides the evaluation of existing projects against self-sustainability actions. It also poses questions such as these: Did the beneficiaries initiate or request the proposed project – at least in broad concept? Did the project team involve the beneficiaries in the project planning and design? Do the project beneficiaries understand that the ultimate aim is for the project to be financially self-sustainable? Did the beneficiaries receive training in basic project and business management?

The practical lessons in creating self-sustainable social development projects that have been learned in the mining sector to date have been valuable. They should be shared, adapted, and emulated – where appropriate – as we continue to build good practice in this important field.

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Case Study: Kwanobuhle wastewater treatment

Kwanobuhle, a large township on the outskirts of Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape, had a wastewater treatment works that were long overdue for refurbishment. Projects of this nature are often overlooked, however, given the magnitude of the impact of these works on the community, the decision was taken to refurbish the WWTW. Access to clean water is, after all, a basic human need.

Essential process for clean water

Wastewater treatment is a process used to remove contaminants and convert it into an effluent, which can be returned to the water cycle with minimum impact on the environment. In municipalities, this process takes place in water treatment plants, where pollutants are removed and broken down. This recycling plays a vital role in the use and sustainability of scarce resources.

Ibhayi Contracting took on the responsibility of rehabilitating the Kwanobuhle Wastewater treatment plant. The project began in January 2019 and is expected to be completed 18 months later in July 2020.

The rehabilitation process which ordinarily is no easy task, was made simpler using Sika products. The concrete spall repairs on the plant were conducted using two products: SikaTop Armatec-110 EpoCem reinforcing protective coating and the Sika Monotop-615HB high build repair mortar. The latter being a repair and reprofiling mortar for structural concrete. The aerators and digesters were also lined with Sika Monotop-612 by trowel application, to reprofile the concrete surfaces. Sikagard-720 EpoCem, a protective coating, was subsequently applied as a 2mm thick layer to the Sika MonoTop-612. Sikaguard 720 Epocem is a thin film sealer, made from epoxy and cement-based fillers, used on vertical and horizontal surfaces. It is a unique product that provides concrete protection and acts as a moisture barrier to allow for the rapid application of an epoxy coating onto surfaces with high moisture contents.

Sikagard-63N epoxy, a high chemical-resistant coating, with a long track record in wastewater treatment plants, was applied to complete the buildup. Finally, all joints in the structures were sealed with Sikaflex Pro 3i and Sikadur Combiflex.

Given the state of disrepair of the WWTW, it was achieving nowhere near full capacity. Project challenges were inevitable expectations and most, such as labour disputes, were dealt with readily. However, once the digesters and aerators are complete, all would have been achieved to ensure project success. The community of Kwanobuhle can look forward to this redevelopment as it is surely one that will stand the test of time; and is certainly…not a waste.

Sika corporate profile

Sika is a specialty chemicals company with a leading position in the development and production of systems and products for bonding, sealing, damping, reinforcing, and protecting in the building sector and motor vehicle industry. Sika has subsidiaries in 100 countries around the world and manufactures in over 300 factories. Sika employs more than 25,000 people and generated sales of CHF 8.1 billion in fiscal 2019. At the end of 2019 Sika won the Swiss Technology Award for a ground-breaking new adhesive technology.

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Covid-19 schools health and safety matters

Schools should consider haring the responsibility and liability in regards to occupational health and safety matters.

One of the most important elements of any school’s risk management strategy is to ensure the safety of its visitors by warranting that all school buildings and facilities comply with the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act and applicable regulation.

Following the announcement last week that Grade seven and Matric pupils will be returning to school on 1 June 2020, it is imperative that schools exercise Covid-19 health and safety matters for integration post lockdown.

The Head of the Afroteq Advisory’s recently established OHSAfroteq division, Robert Palmer, has said that the Covid-19 pandemic has made an impact on managing the health and safety of SA schools.

“As we have seen from countries where schools have recently re-opened their doors for pupils, the outbreak of Covid-19 has drastically changed the landscape of the educational environment. There can be no shortcuts when schools are preparing to be Covid-19 ready.”

Getting schools to adapt to “the new normal”

There are various important measures that teachers, support staff and pupils will need to take and consistently adhere to as part of schooling in the “new normal” if they are serious about returning to a physical school environment. This includes diligently wearing the required PPE in and on the school premises at all times, downsizing the number of student in classrooms and no longer rotating pupils between classes. Instead, Palmer recommends that teachers should be the ones rotating classes in order to minimise the threat of spreading germs.

He added that pupils and teachers need to wear face shields or cloth face masks. It is recommended that pupils and teachers wash and sanitise their hands throughout the day.

“Teachers and staff are responsible for cleaning and sanitising classrooms and common areas daily, combined with a weekly deep cleaning which entails fogging or demisting all areas, cleaning surfaces with disinfectant and sanitising all areas and/or surfaces.”

Identifying “high risk” areas at schools

Even if pupils are kept in one classroom throughout the day and their movement is greatly restricted, OHSAfroteq says there are still certain ‘high risk’ areas where extra vigilance is required.  

Palmer has recommended that areas, where pupils movements are difficult to control such as sanitary facilities and drop off or pick up zones, should be considered high-risk areas.

Even if pupils are kept in one classroom throughout the day and their movement is greatly restricted, there are still certain ‘high risk’ areas where extra vigilance is required.

Pupils and parents should also be responsible and pro-active by ensuring that personal items such as school bags, pencil cases, cellphones and stationery are cleaned and disinfected daily using a disinfecting wipe. As far as possible, pupils are advised to keep all non-essential items at home and opt for “ziplock” packaging for non-essential items.

Daily screening and record-keeping

As per WHO and Government regulations, schools and places of work should conduct a daily checking of temperatures of everybody who enters their premises. 

In an ideal situation, schools should have a security guard on duty to check temperatures and screening everyone before they are allowed to enter the school grounds.

“However, if this is impractical or creates congestion at larger schools, we recommend that designated screening areas be identified where a Covid-19 compliance officer will be responsible for the screening process. Detailed records must be kept of every screening, listing the temperature reading and visual symptom of inspection.”

Daily screening and record-keeping

As per WHO and Government regulations, schools and places of work should conduct a daily checking of temperatures of everybody who enters their premises. 

Schools should have a security guard on duty to check temperatures and screening everyone before they are allowed to enter the school grounds.

Designated screening areas should be identified where a Covid-19 compliance officer is responsible for the screening process. Detailed records must be kept of every screening, listing the temperature reading and visual symptom of inspection.

Dealing with a suspected Covid-19 case

Every school should ensure that it has an adequately sized isolation room or area that is large enough to accommodate 10 % of the population of the school compliment, whilst maintaining the prescribed social distancing of a minimum of 1.5 meters. In most cases, OHSAfroteq suggests that schools should convert a section of the school hall into a quarantine area equipped with the required PPE, such as FPP1 surgical masks, gloves and face shields beds (where possible).

Palmer stressed the importance of schools following a standard operating procedure for dealing with a suspected Covid-19 infection at schools. Such a workplace plan should: 1) isolate the student or staff member immediately, 2) provide them with the required PPE, 3) follow the screening protocol and keeping records, 4) contact the relevant authorities to report the case and act on their instructions. It is important to gather all the necessary information from the patient, such as travel history, names of people they had contact within the last 14-21 days.

The school is responsible for making arrangements to transport the patient off-site without putting other pupils, staff or the public at risk to contract the virus. Palmer added that it is to protect the privacy of pupils who may display symptoms of the virus. 

“It is also imperative that the school protects the privacy of pupils or staff members who displays signs of illness in order to avoid stigmatisation. Each school must have an anti-bullying policy in place that is enacted in cases like these. Moreover, the POPPI Act must also be followed to protect each person’s personal information.”

Partnering with professionals gives peace of mind

If a school is found to be negligent, it can legally be held liable in the event of a pupil or member of staff contracting the Covid-19 on the premises. If the school has done everything as required by the Government and all possible control measures and procedures as listed earlier are in place, it will not be held liable. 

Palmer advises that schools and businesses should partner with a professional OHS company for health and safety matters for integration post lockdown. Such companies help their clients prepare by sharing the responsibility and liability in regards to occupational health and safety matters.

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Entrepreneur builds green company from the ground up

Green initiatives have been gaining traction in recent years, with the environmental and financial benefits already being validated by a number of successful green projects across all sectors. This includes the home decor industry, with consumers eager to find ways to reduce their carbon footprint.

Paving the way for sustainable decor in the country is Eva Kaiser, founder of Evalution Flooring, the first luxury vinyl tile (LVT) flooring supplier in South Africa with a GreenTag Certification. According to Kaiser, every business can do their bit to save the planet.

For almost two decades, Evalution Flooring has serviced the corporate, commercial and residential flooring markets. “I saw a gap in the market to broker flooring from various suppliers, and there weren’t many others doing it,” says Kaiser about coming up with the concept for the business. “There was a definite need. So, in 2006, my company was born.”

Kaiser continues, “The aim is to do everything in my power to be as ‘green’ as possible. We recycle all our paper and plastic and reuse as much packaging for our own parcels as we can. Through a partnership with Recycle 4 Africa Waste Management, we’ve also found a way to recycle our LVT offcuts and pull up’s, turning unrecyclable products into eco-bricks, which are fully compliant. This will vastly reduce the amount of waste on landfills.” Kaiser even admits that finding a way to recycle vinyl into eco-bricks and pavers has been her greatest accomplishment.

Greentag Certification

Being the first luxury vinyl tile flooring supplier in South Africa with a GreenTag Certification, Kaiser explains she is very passionate about the environment and going green.

“The certification came about because I couldn’t bear the thought that my company and the industry, in general, were adding more plastic into the environment. There was no way to recycle when I started the GreenTag process, so I did the next best thing to ensure that my product was being as environmentally conscious as possible.”

That said, Kaiser explains that her mission has changed at various stages of the game. “As I get older and learn more, things always change. The world changes, business changes, and you have to adapt. But hopefully, always for the better.”

“In the next 5 to 10 years, I would like to see my business evolve into a successful boutique flooring store selling quality bespoke flooring in interesting patterns. I’d also like to see the offshoot of the tile decals take a good piece of the DIY market share. This would be the next step from our current flooring options available in wood, stone, concrete and abstract looks.”

Passionate about going green

When asked about her life philosophy, Kaiser reiterates her passion for going green. “If I can make enough of an impact in this endeavour with Debbie Sharp, founder of Recycle 4 Africa, to get enough containerised units converting landfill waste into bricks and actually build a few houses in South Africa, I would be very happy. “

Kaiser continues, “I love to see beautiful spaces – our South African architects and designers are so creative. It drives me to see how they use our products to make a space so amazing. My philosophy is to always try, even if you think it may not work. My mom always gave me an ‘A’ for trying.”

“That would be my advice to anyone looking to start their own business. Never give up trying, always look to the positive and when the going is good, always save up for a rainy day! That rainy day will come at least once in your lifetime, regardless of how high you think you’re flying. Don’t get caught off guard,” Kaiser concludes.

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Covid-19: Shifting Consumers to Home Delivery

South Africans are receiving a push towards buying their essential goods online. The Covid-19 pandemic has left people reluctant to leave their homes and they are therefore receptive to receiving groceries, medicines and other essential goods through online purchases.

The Covid-19 emergency precautions are likely to have a lasting effect on consumers’ buying habits. If staying at home nudges consumers towards the convenience of home delivery, they are likely to keep this habit after the need for self-isolation has passed.

The lock-down announced by President Ramaphosa permits the delivery of goods such as food, medicines, cleaning goods, toiletries, hygiene products and other essential goods. In many cases the providers of these goods do not have the required staffing, vehicles or software to get these products to consumers’ homes.

Consumers – especially those who are immune compromised – rely on these deliveries to stay at home.  Additionally, smaller retailers do not have the financial ability to invest heavily into delivery infrastructure, which offers low (or negative) profit margins.

Picup is a last-mile delivery service providing logistics software that is backed up by a fleet of drivers. During the lock-down it continues to deliver essential goods for retailers and e-commerce clients. The company is seeing an increase in the need for delivering food, pharmaceuticals and baby-care products.

On-demand delivery now possible through a reliable crowdsourced network, Picup can assist people with staying at home. Each driver delivers to many households on each trip, this limits the number people venturing out. The Picup deliveries are contactless and staff are equipped with masks, sanitiser and guidelines for best behavioural practices.

With many businesses being new to home delivery, we can assist with rapid roll-outs. As an example, we engaged with a chain of pharmacies experiencing backlogs in getting medicines to consumers. Within three business days from the initial contact, Picup had provided them with a last mile fulfilment solution, including drivers and customised software at each pharmacy in the group.

The self-isolating protective measures are likely to change consumer behaviour towards using e-commerce and home delivery. When the Covid-19 threat has passed, we expect that significant numbers will keep using their online channels to buy essentials. This will bring South Africa’s inevitable shift to e-commerce forward by several years.

By Picup CEO Antonio Bruni

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High flyers at SRK

SRK Consulting (SA), part of a global firm of consulting engineers and scientists to the natural resource industries, has appointed a number of new directors, partners and associate partners.

Tracey Shepherd and Andrew van Zyl, both in SRK’s Johannesburg office, have been appointed as directors. Shepherd is a partner and financial director with 25 years in the accounting field and 13 years at SRK – specialising in auditing, finance and management. She holds a Bachelor of Accounting Science (B Compt) degree as well as Associate General Accountant (AGA) (SA) designation. Van Zyl is a partner and principal consultant at SRK, with a focus on strategy, business development and valuation. With a Bachelor and Engineering (Chemical) degree and a Master of Commerce in financial economics, he has served as technical advisor in mining convention negotiations and related fields He is chair of the SA Mineral Asset Valuation committee and on the council of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy.

Des Mossop and Marius van Huyssteen have been appointed as SRK (SA) partners. Based in the Johannesburg office, Mossop is a principal engineering geologist with 24 years of experience in open pits, underground massive mining operations and rock slope engineering. He has a Bachelor of Technology (B Tech) degree, a National Diploma in geotechnology and a Chamber of Mines Rock Engineering Certificate for surface mining. He has serviced mining operations in Africa, Australia, South America and North America. Van Huyssteen is a principal environmental scientist in SRK’s Durban office with a Bachelor of Science degree in microbiology and biotechnology, and an Honours degree in environmental management. He has spent 16 years in mainly large-scale environmental and social impact assessments, environmental compliance projects and risk assessments, as well as sustainability, mine closure and rehabilitation studies in various African countries.

SRK (SA) has also appointed Grant Macfarlane and Sasha De Villiers from the Johannesburg office, and Colin Wessels from the Pietermaritzburg office, as associate partners. Macfarlane is a principal engineering geologist with 33 years of experience in fields including tailings storage facilities, national infrastructure, mining, earthworks and construction. He holds a Bachelor of Science in geotechnical engineering and a Graduate Diploma in Engineering. De Villiers is a financial manager with a B Compt and AGA (SA) designation, and has worked in accounting for over 21 years – seven of these with SRK – mainly in auditing, finance, management and administration. Wessels is a principal engineering geologist with a Bachelor of Science in geology and an Honours degree in engineering geology. His 17 years in this field have been focused on a wide range of geotechnical projects in fields including housing, mining plant infrastructure, tailings dams, earth dams and mineral sand deposits.

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Industry leaders make progress in ending plastic waste

Four working groups tasked with addressing weaknesses in SA’s waste management system

The South African Initiative to End Plastic Waste has already made important progress in its efforts to find workable solutions that will end plastic from polluting the environment.
According to Plastics SA Executive Director, Anton Hanekom, this Initiative was formed earlier this year and enjoys the support and active participation of the entire packaging value chain – including the chemicals sector, polymer and/or raw material producers, importers, packaging converters, retailers, brand owners, fast food franchises, producer responsibility organisations and many other stakeholders.
“These working groups are made up industry leaders representing the entire value chain, as well as government representatives of the Department of Environment, Forestry & Fisheries; Department of Trade & Industry and the UN Environment Programme. They are all working towards specific outcomes and present progress reports to the greater forum on a bi-monthly basis. It is truly exciting to see how the different sectors are complementing and supporting each other’s efforts to develop scalable solutions that eliminate plastic waste in the environment and that fit the country’s particular environmental, socio-political and economic realities,” Anton says.

Highlights of the work done to date by these working groups include:

1.     Improving design for sustainability

The Technology, Innovation & Design working group is focusing on improving the South African plastics industry’s success with design for sustainability, increasing recycled content in products; securing demand for recyclate; generating energy from waste; increasing commercial and home composting facilities, developing end-markets for recycled plastic and developing refuse-derived fuels. This is done by considering the country’s industry waste management plan (PPIWMP), exploring existing networks and drawing on local and international research and technology that is already in place.
2.  Improving waste management infrastructure
Improving plastics waste management, recycling infrastructure and developing reverse logistics are only some of the focus areas of the Infrastructure working group. They are looking at the best ways of diverting plastic waste from landfill and the environment by considering the PPIWMP, existing infrastructure, river catchment projects, the recently launched Good Green Deeds campaign as well linking existing local and global networks. Their ultimate objective is to support infrastructure, create blueprint model(s) for implementation, and roll out relevant waste management projects.
“One possibility that is currently on the table for communities without waste management infrastructure, is the creation of materials recovery hubs. These will be facilities established in central points and which operate within a 150km radius. These hubs will be responsible for accepting and sorting all types of packaging waste, where it will be baled for selling to recyclers (high-value waste) or for processing and converting into furniture or building materials to meet community needs (low-value or non-recyclable waste),” Anton expands.
He says that the idea behind these hubs is to work as much as possible with local communities in creating beneficiation enterprises and jobs, determining what products are required for the local community and identifying suitable entrepreneurs to be trained and set up in self-funded, sustainable businesses.
“This type of blueprint will then be applied to identified crisis areas and will be scalable according to the community’s location,” Anton says
3.  Developing alternative feedstocks

The Bioplastics & Alternatives working group is currently developing a position paper on biodegradable and compostable packaging materials, in which retailers and brand owners are being urged to consider various factors before they introduce such packaging products. One such factor is the importance of using appropriate labels and logo’s to ensure they are easily differentiated from their conventional counterparts.
Explains Anton: “The introduction of biodegradable and compostable material remains a major concern for the plastics recycling industry as the required infrastructure to separately collect and process these materials (e.g. commercial composting facilities) currently does not exist in South Africa. These alternatives to conventional plastic packaging do not change consumer behaviour when it comes to littering. As a result, we could potentially replace one problem with another as these materials inadvertently end up contaminating the recycling stream”.
4. Improving education and awareness

The Education & Awareness working group’s goals are centred on awareness campaigns with the use of information booklets, pamphlets, websites, mobile apps and clean-up events. They are developing a plan of action that uses existing and new networks in the industry and government in order to improve awareness among schools, communities, consumers, industry and retailers, government and waste management companies. One of their aims is to enhance skills development among entrepreneurs, waste pickers and waste management businesses.
Next steps

A meeting was held recently between representatives of the South African Initiative to End Plastic Waste and Minister of the Environment, Forestry & Fisheries, Ms Barbara Creecy, during which she was briefed on the industry’s progress with these four working groups.The Minister requested that two more working groups be formed with a specific focus on standards, compliance and the integration of waste pickers into the circular economy.  Moreover, in order to promote further understanding of the issues facing the industry, she will be hosting a Plastics Colloquium: “Understanding the Plastics Sector and Identifying Policy Measures” on 21 – 22 November 2019 in Johannesburg. During these two days, there will be various plenary sessions, panel discussions and working group discussions to further unpack the practical problems and co-design proposed solutions.
“An impressive amount of work and research has already been done, but there is still plenty more we as an industry need to do to reach the scale and impact we are hoping to achieve with this project. We are inviting anyone who is interested and involved in the plastics value chain and feels they have some insight to offer, to join one of the initiative’s working groups. The ultimate success of these solutions will depend on ensuring as much industry buy-in and drawing on as much expertise as possible!” Anton concludes.
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Profile: Arup

Arup is an independent firm of designers, planners, engineers, consultants and technical specialists, working across every aspect of today’s built environment. Together we help our clients solve their most complex challenges – turning exciting ideas into tangible reality as we strive to find a better way and shape a better world.
We are truly global. From our 92 offices worldwide more than 14,000 specialists deliver innovative projects around the globe. Arup is working with clients to shape a better world through the efficient, affordable and sustainable sourcing of energy, its dispatch and use. We help operators, developers and investors to procure, design and deliver successful renewable energy projects that represent the future direction of this vital industry including:

  • Solar
  • Offshore wind
  • Onshore wind
  • Hydro power
  • Bio energy

As an international firm, we have a wealth of technical knowledge gained on some of the world’s most ambitious solar, wind and hydro-energy schemes. We play a proactive role, knowing that every new generating system will face unique local challenges, from its geology to local regulations and system integration hurdles. In many countries renewable energy industries haven’t yet developed mature supply chains, so a trusted partner with strong problem-solving skills is essential.

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