22.214.171.124 Promotion of Recycling
Companies especially in the business world also took an initiative to implement the concept of recycling in schools to create awareness. The idea started in Windhoek. The initiative was also being taken to other urban centers to promote the spirit of recycling among school children in Namibia. Such an initiative was supposed to encourage learners to take from home recyclable raw material such as papers, bottles, sweet wrappers along to schools; which are recorded by an assigned teacher as part of a competition. The results of the initiative was reported as quite encouraging as more and more recyclable raw material were being collected from schools. Logistic problems were reported to be hampering the initiative to spread into rural schools.
The awareness initiative for recycling in schools culminated with schools competition. Company A in conjunction with other partners in the private sector equipped schools in the Windhoek area with separation bins and the students at the school were encouraged to utilize the bins. The schools which collected the most recyclable materials per student at the end of the year won cash prizes for their efforts.
Around the year 2000, some private companies gave a boost in the industry growth by starting the idea of drop off centers at major shopping malls in Windhoek like Auas Valley, Merua Mall whereby waste generators would drop any recyclable raw material they had to dispose ranging from plastic, paper and bottles. In 2001, one of the leading recycling companies in the country began recycling in Windhoek. However, the drive towards more recycling in Windhoek and other parts of the country followed the introduction of the SWMP (2009) introduced by the CoW which laid emphasis on an IWMA (waste avoidance, reduce, reuse, recycle and disposal) and Green Productivity (GP) measures as highlighted by Koh, (2007). The concept of Green Productivity (GP) refers to harmonization of environmental protection and economic development to enhance the people’s quality of life. Prior to this, all generated waste in the city was disposed at landfill sites around the city as established by the researcher during the study a practice which was still prevalent in other smaller centers of the country.
Thus, the industry was getting organized in the hands of the formal sector and was slowly experiencing growth. At the time of study, formal sector participation was reportedly growing as evidenced by the many companies that were involved in the industry. Most of the recycling activities were in the hands of private companies that were given contracts to operate. This scenario is contrary to other developing countries in Asian and other African countries where waste pickers play an active role in the recycling industry, although without recognition in some countries (Dlamini ; Simatele, 2016; Chukwunonye, 2013; Medina 2012; Mamphitta 2012).
5.4.2 Value addition chain processes in Namibia
The researcher wanted to establish recycling value chain of the different materials that were being recycled. Therefore the research question was “What is the value added by companies on the various recycling processes?”
Discussion of the findings is descriptive and based on responses and observations since companies were not willing to part with their financial figures. Responses varied among respondents depending on the nature of business. The general answer from companies which were involved in recovery activities was that little value addition was done. ‘I wish everything is done here because we sent our things out and later buy them very expensive’ company N official said.
For companies which were into recovery activities such as A, E, F, H, J, K and N, collection of recyclable raw material was the initial process in the value addition chain process. Most companies indicated that they collected for free either directly from the source or point of generation: households, commercial businesses, industries, institutions like schools, colleges, mines an and construction sites whilst others indicated collection from drop off centers located mainly at shopping centers, along streets, parks, open spaces and at landfill sites. Companies A, F and N were some of those who were collecting from disposal sites through the services of waste reclaimers. In some cases, companies used the services of middlemen to collect recyclable raw material from farms or tourism resorts. In such cases, they paid the middlemen based on weight delivered. Large companies also had active contracts with large industries such as fishing companies, mines to collect any recyclable raw material.
Collection, sorting, cleaning, crushing, shredding, baling and exporting were the most common value addition processes most recovered materials underwent, but transportation and packaging featured many times throughout the processing of the material and distribution. However, this differed from company to company and material to material. In order to get an appreciation of value addition processes used, each material will be looked at separately, with an in depth analysis on plastic which has a complete recycling loop in Namibia followed by paper. For the rest only the features occurring in Namibia are highlighted.
The section on value addition is different from the section on extent of involvement in that the extent of involvement section was looking at the roles were played by companies involves in recycling in general whereas value addition chain is looking at activities adding value to the raw materials being recycled. There is an overlap in some of the aspects presented here and those presented in section 5.2.4.
126.96.36.199 Value addition processes for Plastics (Total recycling in Namibia)
Plastic was the only product which was undergoing 100% recycling in Namibia that is from collection to sell of new products. As mentioned earlier on, plastics of different types as shown in Table 4.7 and 4.8 in Chapter 4 underwent different processes in order to enhance product value. According to self-observation the recycling of plastics in Namibia involved processes such as collection including transportation, storage, sorting, baling and transportation; chipping/ shredding, washing using disinfection chemicals, pelleting, packaging, and transportation; product manufacturing, quality control, packaging and distribution; and marketing and selling were considered as the main recycling value chain processes observed for plastics. The companies given in this section were involved directly in the different stage of recycling of plastics.
Companies A, B, C, F, G, H, L, and N were involved in collection, transporting, storage, sorting, baling of plastics and transportation for soft plastics but hard plastics were chipped before baling. These steps were observed as value addition processes in the recycling of plastics. The study established that collection marked the first step in the recycling value chain process following discard of the plastic waste materials. Plastics for recycling came from two main sources: post-consumer (households, institutions, businesses) and post-industrial (rejects from industries e.g. off-cuts, damaged batches and packaging material) which mainly came from company B.
Upon collection, materials were stored ready to be sorted, which was done manually. At company A, in Windhoek, there were 35 sorters on the conveyer belt. Each one of them concentrated on one type of plastic e.g. Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), High density Polyethylene (HDPE), Vinyl Plastics (PVC or V) as given in table 4.8, Chapter 4 confirming Wong’s (2010) observation that the coding system allows for an efficient separation of different types of plastics for recycling. These were also further sorted according to texture and colour.
At Company A plastic from the fish industry was cleaned using a cleansing detergent, which was considered very expensive. The same was reported for plastic from mines which was said to be heavily polluted with corrosive materials at times. Great care was needed during the cleaning process, since some of the plastic containers were used to carry dangerous products. The company ensured adequate protective clothing for its workers. All this added to high costs of plastic recycling for the company.
After sorting, most of the plastic materials were compacted or chipped so as to reduce bulkiness and volume before they were baled for the end user market. Compaction was done using machines or by hand depending on available company’s resources. Wheelie bins, beverage crates were washed to remove any impurities and chipped into small pieces. At company A, drinking bottle tops were granulated before baling.
At company N, some chipped soft clear plastic was used to make pillows, duvets and throw over blankets. The owner of the company however complained about the lack of markets for the products as people preferred to buy elsewhere. As a result, the researcher just saw these products piled with prospects for finding buyers. However, most of the plastic from these companies were transported to South Africa for further processing. However, some of the plastic was taken to Company D which is in Okahandja, about 100km north of Windhoek, for further processing.
Company D: The major business of company D in the value chain for plastics was the production of plastic pellets which are the main raw material for manufacturing of plastic products. This is the only company identified to be producing these raw materials locally. The different processes involved in pellet production are discussed below.
The company collected all sorts of plastics sourced and received from anyone including companies highlighted in the previous section. Chipping of the plastics was the first step. This involved cutting products such as wheelie bins, beverage crates into small pieces to be melted down. Dirty wheelie bins had to be washed first to remove contaminants. Chipping was done using a chipper. After chipping of all plastics, the next stage was washing. The chips were washed in an alkaline detergent to remove glue, paper labels, dirt and any remnants of the product they once contained. This was done in a spinning tower after which, the plastics were rinsed and dried ready for the pelleting process.
The pelleting process was considered as the most important part of the processing. The extrusion process was the technique used during value addition at this company, whereby the plastic material was melted in a tubular metal chamber. The molten paste was then extruded like toothpaste from paste tube through hole like mince grinder. The plastic came out like spaghetti strings. In order to avoid tangling of the strings, the strings were immediately immersed in cold water to solidify before cut into very small oval shaped pellets using a rotating cutter. The pellets were dried and packed. The different plastics PET, HDPE etc. were produced in a similar manner. Similar processes were highlighted in a study on Management of PET Plastic Bottles Waste through Recycling in Khartoum State by Fadlalla (2010).
Company B and C: Only two companies A and B visited were manufacturing plastic products using some of the raw materials obtained through the pelleting process described above.
Colour difference distinguished the recycling pellets from virgin pellets which are pure crystal white. Only 10% of raw materials used were from company D however, the official interviewed at Company C emphasized the importance of supporting this company in order to promote local industrial development and cheaper products. At the same company, pellets were used to make pipes for a variety of purposes e.g. irrigation, sewage and waste water supply. According to the company director, virgin pellets produced more durable pipes compared to secondary or recycled pellets. Thus, water pipes which were some of the products manufactured were made only from virgin pellets but Irrigation and sewage pipes were mainly produced using secondary raw materials.
Company B, the mother company for company D, produces a variety of plastic packaging products such as carrier bags, meat packaging plastics, agricultural bags, refuse bags as well as liquid containers. Both virgin and secondary pellets were used in the production process. Only packaging made from virgin pellets are used for packaging consumables as those made from secondary raw materials are considered not safe. Company H was also into manufacturing of plastic products such as chairs and household utensils etc. The researcher could not manage to visit the company due to logistic problems.
Production of these plastic products at company B and C was through injection and blow molding processes. Through the injection molding process, pellets were first melted before injecting the melt into a cavity mold, followed by cooling to obtain solid product, and ejecting the product for subsequent finishing. At company B, films of plastics were produced from the mould upon which the films were fed into cutting machines to produce carrier bags or waste bins; packaging plastics were labeled later on. In order to produce coloured plastics, colourful virgin pellets were mixed with secondary pellets before the melting process. The researcher established that a number of carrier bags used by most retail shops in the country as well as wrapping plastics used in the meat industry are manufactured at company B. The company produced products according to customer’s specifications. For example, some customers require thinner packaging plastics whilst others require thicker packaging plastics. The thinner the packaging the cheaper they were. According to Fadlalla (2010) injection molding is one of the most popular processing operations in the plastics industry.
Upon production of new products, manufactured products were first checked for any defects before packaging and storage in a large warehouse before delivery to different customers in and outside the country. Any products with defects were considered waste and thus sent to company D for recycling. Quality control was considered very important as part of policy requirement by the government and international standards. The researcher witnessed the loading of carrier bags destined for Angola during the study period. The company has wholesale shops around the country, thus some of the products were sold locally.
The same also applied to company C, the pipes manufactured were stored in company warehouses awaiting dispatch to local and regional markets. Quality control is also considered to be very important. Thus any defects detected, the products were abandoned as rejects and sent back in the recycling chain.