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Purpose Partners Convert Waste to Good

What started as a small, but impactful recycling initiative among 13 schools during lockdown, has boomed to 100 schools thanks to the involvement of new partners.  The schools are collecting yoghurt tubs which are upcycled to create 500 school desks, and in so-doing,19 tons of plastic are diverted from landfill. 

Rewind Polystyrene SA reported that in 2020, over 3000 tons of the plastic type used to manufacture yoghurt tubs was recycled. This represents 0,16% of the total plastic that is produced in South Africa in a year.  By thinking and behaving differently, waste presents an opportunity within a circular economy to be transformed and upcycled into something practical and beneficial for the public. Innovation has allowed plastic waste from yoghurt tubs to be converted into décor items like cornices, clothing hangers, and light-weight bricks for housing and structures.  Through Danone’s CSI project, yoghurt tubs are now being transformed to provide school desks.

In 2021, began as a small, but incredibly impactful campaign, upcycling yoghurt tubs into school desks for Early Childhood Development (ECD) schools to help children maintain social distancing during the plight of the Covid pandemic. In February, Danone donated 230 school desks made from recycled yoghurt cups to seven ECD schools in the Ekurhuleni district, home of the leading yoghurt manufacturer.

Acknowledging that plastic waste can be repurposed to give it a second life, Danone put out a call to other corporates to get involved. Pick n Pay, Mpact Plastic Containers and Interwaste have joined the programme to be this force for good.

“Now more than ever, we need to work through collaboration and partnerships to build solutions to protect our people and our planet.  The One Desk. One Child campaign has kickstarted many of these conversations and relationships,” says Henk van der Hyde, Sustainability Manager for Danone.  “We started with 13 schools participating as yoghurt tub collection points, and with the support of our like-minded partners, we’ve scaled the campaign to reach 100 schools – collecting more plastic, creating more desks, reaching more learners.  And we won’t stop there.”  Danone has a commitment of zero waste to landfill by 2030.

Offering their expertise and funding each partner made a valuable contribution to build the reach and sustainability of the programme.  Pick n Pay’s School Club (an educational platform which reaches 2 million learners each year) provided the school activation infrastructure to collect more yoghurt tubs and entrench the ever-important message that ‘waste has value’ amongst learners.  Mpact Plastic Containers donated 87 collection bins to the participating schools: a dedicated space for children to deposit their yoghurt tubs, entrenching the concept of ‘separating at source’.  Consistent with the cause, these unique Wheelie Bins are 100% recyclable and are also made from upcycled plastic.  Lastly, Interwaste manages collection logistics, transporting the collected plastic from the schools, and delivering it to the desk manufacturer partners monthly.  

“Supporting education and increasing recycling is part and parcel of who we are at Pick n Pay. Now in its 18th year, the Pick n Pay School Club is one of South Africa’s most dynamic and successful education platforms and is a pillar of our active participation in the communities in which we work and live,” says Andre Nel, Head of Sustainability at Pick n Pay.  “This project provides a unique platform for collaboration, not only educating learners about recycling, but also providing much needed support to ECD schools in the form of recycled desks.”

“As one of the leaders in the packaging and recycling industries, we have a responsibility to the environment. That’s why we’ve designed a manufacturing chain that reincorporates used packaging before it reaches landfills,” says Kammy Govender, Marketing Manager from Mpact Plastic Containers.  “It’s part of our mission to develop practical, economically viable and environmentally sustainable solutions that bring us, and the world, closer to a true circular economy.”

“The One Desk. One Child campaign is an excellent example of how a meaningful purpose coupled with circular economy thinking can be drivers of innovation and deliver social, economic and environmental benefits,” says Kate Stubbs, Group Business Development and Marketing Director for Interwaste.  “It shows the power of collaboration and a collective intent to make a sustainable difference to the lives of young children and our country.”  The imminent implementation of the Extended Producer Responsibility waste legislation has accelerated initiatives and innovation to create waste management solutions. 

In the past week, Danone, with the help of its purpose partners, delivered another 36 desks to three schools in the Ekurhuleni district. This is great news ahead of Clean-Up & Recycle SA Week, which runs from 13-18 September 2021 and National Recycling Day on Friday, 17 September.

It’s through impactful partnerships like the one formed between Danone, Pick n Pay, Mpact Plastic Containers and Interwaste, that we can come together, to create solutions for a sustainable future.

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