Plastic recycling breakthrough reduces pollution
Two imminent major developments in South Africa will have a lasting impact on the huge volume of plastic waste being dumped into the environment every year rather than being recycled.
The government is in the throes of finalising Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations that will make plastics manufacturers (among others) and producers of e-waste accountable for the responsible disposal of discarded products and materials.
About 1 000 000 tonnes of non-recyclable and un-recycled plastic get dumped into the environment annually to end up in landfill sites, rivers and the ocean.
As the government steps up to shift responsibility for responsible plastics disposal to manufacturers and importers in line with world best practice, so has the recently established company the Centre for Regenerative Design and Collaboration (CRDC) South Africa initiated extensive technical testing of its innovative new Eco Aggregate made from mixed plastic waste.
Replacement for scarce sand
RESIN8™ replaces scarce building sand in the manufacture of concrete building blocks, pavers, curbing, piping and thrown concrete. All types of mixed and dirty remediated plastic waste that currently gets discarded can be processed into the concrete modifier using a proprietary process developed by Donald Thomson in Costa Rica.
Brett Jordaan, CEO of CRDC Global, says the innovative Eco Aggregate has been used successfully in the field. A total of 700 houses have been constructed in Costa Rica using concrete blocks in which RESIN8™ was the modifier.
‘We have secured funding for full-scale plants in Costa Rica and the USA from an international consortium. We have set up subsidiaries in South Africa, the USA, UK, New Zealand, Mexico and Australia and have secured offtake partners (construction companies) in those countries.’
Abraham Avenant, CEO of CRDC SA, anticipates that the construction of South Africa’s first RESIN8™ production plant will be launched in the first quarter of next year. It will be sited in or near Blackheath in Cape Town.
‘We envisage setting up a further 20 RESIN8™ manufacturing plants in South Africa’s major centres within the next five years at a cost of between R20- and R30-million per plant. Each plant will be capable of converting 12 000 tonnes of plastic waste per year.
‘The bulk of funding will be sourced from local commercial banks, infrastructure funds and private equity funds. Projects that have a high environment, social and governance (ESG) impacts and also deliver solid commercial returns are attractive to investors.’
Avenant says trials of the innovative Eco Aggregate are being run at the University of Stellenbosch and various independent laboratories to achieve local accreditation such as the South African Bureau of Standard (SABS) or other widely accepted accreditation such as certification for achieving South African Agrément performance criteria for construction products. Results are expected in about six weeks.
‘CRDC Global invested over R15 million ($1million) in the testing of the product by independent laboratories in the USA and at the University of Costa Rica.
‘We are confident we will achieve the standards required in South Africa based on the excellent results of international testing done to date.
‘Cape Town-based concrete manufacturer Cape Concrete agreed to cast and test RESIN8™ in a variety of pre-cast products such as drainage pipes, kerbs and toilet structures for low-cost housing developments. The products have met Cape Concrete’s standards.’
Avenant says that tests are also being run by a local concrete block manufacturer with various percentages of RESIN8™ included in the mix design, replacing natural aggregates.
After successful accreditation, concrete products that include RESIN8™ will be used in the construction of a sample house at a Cape Town-based social housing development. The aim is to include concrete products with a RESIN8™ content in all local housing projects as well as in other private developments with a focus on green building technology. The supply of the Eco Aggregate for the sample project forms part of CRDC’s social responsibility initiative.
‘Hundreds of jobs could be created through the need to collect and process discarded plastic of every kind to supply feedstock for our processing plants. We estimate that direct employment per plant will be 28 people. However, we are also working on mechanisms to subsidise collection of non-recyclable plastics from the environment and underserved communities.’
Avenant says only nine percent of plastic products manufactured in South Africa end up being recycled.
‘We anticipate a growing demand for RESIN8™ once cement producers and construction companies nationwide become aware of the benefits of using the product.
The benefits of the use of the lightweight concrete Eco Aggregate include improvements in the structural, thermal and environmental properties of concrete products.
Find out more about RESIN8™ by clicking on this link.
New waste management regulations
According to the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment, the mooted new regulations in the National Environmental Management: Waste Act apply to electrical and electronic equipment, lighting and paper, packaging and some single-use product sectors.
Application of the new regulations will increase the recycling, reduction, reuse and recovery rate of discarded materials and products thus expanding the circular economy.
All existing producers and producer-responsibility organisations have to register with the Department before 5 November this year.
The amended Regulations can be seen by clicking on this link.
Article edited by Andrea Abbott of SAFREA.