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Learners recognised with awards for their recycling efforts

The cumulative effects of the ABI Schools Recycling Programme are starting to mount up, and are changing mindsets of tomorrow’s citizens.

 Learners from Ekuthuleni Primary in Ntuzuma in KwaZulu-Natal have every reason to celebrate before their year-end results after being announced as the leading 2015 ABI Schools Recycling Awards recipient. These recycling champions, who collected 27 604kgs of recyclable waste this year, walked away with a whooping prize of R50 000 which will go into improving their school facilities. Motjibosane Primary from Temba in Hammanskraal took second place with a collection of 22 561kgs and Siphosethu Primary from Ntuzuma in KwaZulu-Natal came third for their collection of 14 979kgs.

Four hundred and four schools from KZN, Gauteng and Northwest participated in this year’s Schools Recycling Programme.

The awards are a culmination of the annual collections by the school; the programme has been running for five years and aims to introduce children as active participants in waste management through an introduction to recycling within a school framework. The ultimate objective is to encourage awareness among school learners at an early age around the negative impact of waste, particularly PET waste that is often found littered in their environments. ABI Bottling put the initiative together to recognise the efforts of learners participating in recycling.

Gaopaleloe Mothoagae, sustainable development manager at ABI Bottling says: “We are a company that values innovation and the ability to create solutions that are sustainable, so we gave a lot of thought to how best we could recycle PET bottles in particular to obtain a lasting environmental impact. We realised that meant engaging with schoolchildren, thus getting tomorrow’s citizens on board now, and linking the entire recycling initiative to empowerment.”

Five years ago, the ABI team began working with around 40 schools, primarily in the townships. During the five years the programme has been going, 350 000 children have participated in it and this year, 404 schools were actively committed. Each school has to collect a minimum of 1000 kilograms per month and those who collect more become eligible for monthly prizes. Aside from the monthly prizes, the annual awards for the three best schools and the top 10 eco-champions within schools, totals R350 000.

Much of the programme’s success can be linked to the way it combines learning about environmental concerns with having fun. Waste products, like cans and plastic bottles, are being used in schools’ especially developed recycling curriculum to teach life and natural sciences, as well as being used in arts and crafts projects. This helps teachers to bring abstract concepts to life.

Supporting the programme are Eco-Clubs to help inspire teens to stay involved and motivated. These Eco-Clubs take responsibility for the school’s recycling efforts, and are responsible for inspiring their peers to become recyclers, and to initiate green projects.

“We are changing the mindset of an entire generation in order to change the way our society manages waste,” adds Mothoagae. ABI Bottling has invested in the region of R15 million over the five years to make this initiative possible.

Creating jobs, too

The programme has been carefully crafted to be self-sustaining by ensuring it provides jobs and opportunities within the broader community. In this spirit, it has appointed 24 recycling representatives this year to liaise with the schools participating in the programme. These representatives are drawn from unemployed youth in the surrounding communities—and some of them have since been permanently employed by ABI and other partners in the programme. It was important for the programme to be self-sustaining and to reflect the realities of the collection life cycle:  consume, dispose, separate, sell and get paid.

Further traction comes from the appointment of grassroots entrepreneurs to collect the material from schools and take it to recycling facilities.

“We are determined to make a lasting impact by combining responsibility for the environment with a social good. That’s the only way we will save our planet,” concludes Mothoagae.

Recycling by the numbers

ABI’s School Recycling Programme has achieved some startling results:

  • 633 tons of recyclable material (PET bottles, cans and paper) have been collected thus far—equivalent to 100 African elephant bulls.
  • This represents 4 340 cubic metres of landfill space saved and 1 253 tons of carbon not emitted into the atmosphere.