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Military puts muscle behind the circular economy

THE South African military has put its muscle behind the circular economy with its launch of a separation-at-source recycling initiative in Limpopo.

The Lephalale-based South African Military Health Service (SAMHS) training centre, which falls under the Department of Defence, has joined forces with South Africa’s longest-standing producer responsibility organisation, PETCO, to roll out the initiative.

The centre provides basic military training courses and houses up to 250 new recruits at any given time, generating tonnes of waste currently destined for landfill.

The launch in March saw delegates from the private and public sectors gathered at the centre for the official start of the separation-at-source partnership and the handover of a converted six-metre shipping container, sponsored by PETCO, for the storage of recyclable materials.

The initiative marks the next chapter in a relationship which has seen PETCO providing training and equipment support to assist SAMHS in meeting its recycling objectives.

“PETCO believes in strengthening and developing relationships with both the public and private sector regarding visible and ongoing recycling projects,” said CEO Cheri Scholtz.

“Recycling is not a one-man show. Industry cannot do it alone, and the Government cannot do it alone. We need each other.”

The relationship between SAHMS and PETCO began in late 2021, when the officer commanding, Colonel M.R. Mphashi, reached out to PETCO to enquire about starting a recycling programme on-site.

“In living up to our standards of protecting the environment entrusted to us, we intend to practise responsible waste management and reduce the amount of waste that ends up at the landfill,” Mphashi said.

Recycling bins and cages have been placed at the on-site kitchen and accommodation quarters. Once filled, these are taken to the container, where participants in the Working on Fire programme – an initiative of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment – sort and store the recyclables.

The sponsored container will assist the training centre, which is located on the rural outskirts of Lephalale, to keep monkeys and other local wildlife from rummaging through and littering the sorted waste.

For the past two years, ahead of the separation-at-source initiative, PETCO has also been running annual recycling workshops to ensure that new recruits understand the different types of recyclables and how to sort and separate them.

“PETCO is really pleased to have been involved in this project, which enables the diversion of recyclables from landfill,” said Scholtz.

“This is an important community project that has an impact, not just on one person, but on the behaviour of many towards the responsible and disciplined disposal of recyclables.

“We trust that the military community will learn more about recycling, actively participate in this initiative and instil this behaviour among their own families.”

Scholtz said the ultimate aim was to grow the collection volumes of sorted recyclables within the greater Lephalale area and contribute to cleaning up the town.