On 18 March we celebrate Global Recycling Day and the official theme for 2021 is #RecyclingHeroes – an exciting pledge to recognise and celebrate the people, places and activities that showcase what an important role recycling plays in creating a greener future for all.
Danone Southern Africa has committed to donate 500 desks made from recycled yoghurt tubs to 13 Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres. To date, 230 desks have already been distributed to 7 schools.
The net achievement will be 19 tons of plastic waste redirected from landfill. The campaign sparked a groundswell of positive support mobilising many within the ECD communities to do their bit. “Momentum to collect yoghurt tubs has boomed,” says Leanne Kiezer, Corporate Affairs Manager at Danone South Africa.
“Our schools perform an invaluable role in our communities. Not only do they shape the minds of our future generation, but they have the power to actively drive social change that leads to a better, more sustainable future for all. We are so appreciative towards these institutions for all the work they do, and it’s been a privilege to partner with them on this amazing initiative,” says Kiezer.
The campaign has organically become a pay-it-forward initiative, where schools which have already received their recycled desks are collecting yoghurt tubs to supply material to create more desks for other schools in their community. It’s had an incredible ripple effect!
To grow the initiative even more, Danone SA has launched a six-month competition among the schools to incentivise the collection and recycling of more yoghurt tubs. At the end of July, the school which has collected the most tubs will receive a new jungle gym, also made from 100% recycled plastic.
“Among two of the activated schools, over 4 000 individual yoghurt tubs have been collected in the first month! That’s equal to 18 kilograms of plastic to be recycled, which otherwise would have gone to landfill,” says Kiezer. These schools are our recycling heroes!
“What’s even more exciting, is that other corporates are starting to show interest too. This means that the campaign will be able to receive additional funding and eventually spread its wings to scale countrywide. Since the Waste Management Act came into being, more responsibility has been placed on brand owners to find an end-life solution for the plastic they produce, preventing it from going to landfill. If that end-life solution can also provide valuable resources that go back into the community, it’s a win-win for all”, says Kiezer.
Schools are the ideal touchpoints for this initiative because not only are children consumers of yoghurt products like Nutriday Junior (a yoghurt fortified with iron and zinc to support brain development and immunity), but they are being taught to give plastic a second life through the process of recycling. There’s education around collecting and cleaning the plastic, ‘separation at source’ preparing it for recycling and then seeing how it can be transformed into durable desks.
These behaviours will be entrenched into a child’s value system and build future-thinking habits for life – “we’re building classrooms of sustainability advocates!” says Kiezer. “Children will know that waste has the potential to become something beneficial. That it can be transformed, repurposed and upcycled to go back into the community and support the community. That it has value,” explains Kiezer.
Each year the ‘Seventh Resource’ – recyclables – saves over 700-million tons in C02 emissions, states GlobalRecyclingDay.com. Recycling is a key part of the circular economy, keeping our materials in circulation, thereby reducing the consumption of virgin materials. “Danone’s initiative is teaching children to give plastic a second life, so that it does not end up in landfill. It’s teaching behaviour change and sustainability practices that will be adopted into families in the community and then spread beyond as those families create more recycling ambassadors. And it’s supporting children and schools in need, to create a better, more sustainable future” says Dr Kirsten Barnes, project lead on the SA Plastics Pact, and Circular Analyst, GreenCape.