Recycling in Africa

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Did you know that Africa only recycles 4% of all the waste that it produces? This alarming statistic is despite the African Union’s (AU) goal of ensuring that “African cities will be recycling at least 50% of the waste they generate by 2023”. South Africa has a slightly better overall recycling rate than the continent, coming to 10%, though only 2% of this figure is processed in waste-to-energy programmes.

It’s clear then, that the continent has a mountain of waste to dispose of in a responsible manner (by avoiding sending it to landfill sites) before the AU target date arrives.

One of the waste materials that is seen littering roadsides, townships and rubbish dumps throughout Africa and South Africa is end-of-life tyres. The good news is that old tyres can be reused or recycled. Options include re-treading and energy and material recovery.

According to a 2018 benchmark study, tyre recycling rates come to almost 100% in the European Union (EU), while South Africa’s rate is far less impressive (under 20%). According to a 2019 estimate, 11 million end-of-life tyres are now lying in dumps throughout the country. This not only takes up a huge amount of landfill space, but also causes a pollution problem.

This leaves huge scope recycling these materials into products such as ground rubber chips and kiln fuel for cement making, as well as soles for shoes, and has the potential to create employment that is badly needed, especially after the devastation caused to the economy by COVID-19.

Zhauns, Africa’s leading machine supplier, is encouraging entrepreneurs to do their bit to increase the amount of waste materials that are saved from landfill in South Africa every year. For example, Zhauns has developed an ingenious machine that can convert waste tyres into 500mm x 500mm rubber floor tiles (20 per hour), which not only saves this resource from being wasted and causing pollution of the environment, but also has the potential to create jobs for people who badly need them. Up to 250kg of end-of-use tyres can be recycled every hour with the machine.

Other available machines can recycle different waste items. For example, the biodiesel machine converts used cooking oil that would usually be discarded, into biodiesel, which can be used in anything from generators to stoves, and also makes a good lubricant. In addition, it produces less carbon monoxide emissions than other alternative fuels, making it better for the environment.

The bottle/glass crusher converts waste glass into glass chips and is ideal for glass collectors, restaurants and hotels, while the PET bottle recycling equipment recycles plastic water and cooldrink bottles, thereby saving them from landfill. 

All these machines have huge potential to address South Africa’s waste problem and create more jobs. Who knows, maybe by 2023 the country’s recycling rates will be far more impressive.