As persistent unemployment continues to be one of the major challenges facing South Africa, numerous studies indicate that the creation of a circular economy has the ability to positively impact job creation. One company that has taken cognisance of this trend is Sani-touch, manufacturers of the Sani-touch sanitising trolley wipes.
Over the past two years the company has been on a journey to create a circular economy for its used wipes in order to save them from landfill. This journey has culminated in the recycling and repurposing of used wipes to manufacture outdoor furniture including jungle gyms and outdoor benches.
“In South Africa, the challenge is that the recycling and repurposing of products is still in its infancy,” reveals Sani-touch marketing director, Annette Devenish. “Finding recyclers was only the first step. The next step involved finding somebody who could repurpose the recycled material into new products.”
Her investigations led her to Katlehong-based entrepreneur, Hudson Diphofa (33) who was retrenched from his job during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, with experience of the sustainable manufacturing field, Diphofa established his own business, Structural Poly Plastic Furniture & Project which uses recycled material to manufacture outdoor furniture.
Diphofa says he is, “passionate about changing the perception of waste and helping consumers to recognise that waste is a raw material that can be repurposed into a variety of different useful products.”
He has big dreams for his business, including eventually employing more people. The unemployment rate for those aged between 25 to 34 years is a currently an alarming 42.1%, higher than the national unemployment rate of 34.5%.
Diphofa has been repurposing Sani-touch’s used wipes to manufacture jungle gyms and toddler picnic bench sets. Sani-touch donated its second eco-friendly jungle gym made from used and repurposed wipes as well as three toddler picnic bench sets, this time to the Hlayisananai early childhood development centre in Alexandra, Johannesburg. Its first jungle gym, also made from used wipes, was donated to the Qedusizi Day Care Centre in Brakpan in April.
The Hlayisananai early childhood development centre, which specialises in offering pre-school education, health care, nutrition, outings and educational games, caters to 70 children between the ages of three and six.
“The children in our care come from homes without any dedicated play areas,” explains Bafana Mohale, Education Programmes Manager for Rays of Hope. “Their only available play area is in the roads which is why parents tend to keep their children indoors. We are delighted to be the recipient of this jungle gym and toddler picnic bench sets which will provide our learners with an opportunity to play like children are supposed to while at the same time promoting their gross motor development. We’re equally delighted about the fact that the jungle gym and picnic bench sets are made entirely from recycled material which is saving the same environment these younger learners must grow up to enjoy.”
“We’re delighted that our efforts are culminating in useful products that will make a meaningful difference to the learners at Hlayisanani,” says Devenish. “One of the biggest benefits of using 100% recyclable and locally-sourced polypropylene for our wipes is that they can be recycled many times. Essentially, what this means is that we can recycle this jungle gym and the toddler picnic sets again – and again – each time remoulding the polypropylene into another brand-new product. In this way we create a virtuous circle and reduce waste. At the same time our circular economy is creating much needed employment.”
Devenish is adamant that all businesses need to step up and play their part to ensure they make a positive difference to their environment by recycling and repurposing waste and creating sustainable virtuous circles.