In its 10-year history, the Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA) Schools Recycling Programme has worked with over 866 schools and over 700 000 learners around the country to successfully remove and contribute to the recycling of over 9111 tonnes of waste from the environment, of which 30% of waste collected is converted to the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastics used in the bulk of its drinks packaging.
Started in 2011, the programme has invested almost R40 million to date as a crucial part of CCBSA’s commitment to creating a waste-free South Africa, in line with Coca-Cola’s global commitment to create a World Without Waste by 2030.
“While our ability to roll out our schools recycling programme was slowed significantly due to Covid-19, the ability to reach the collection levels we have, is a testament to the importance of starting the recycling journey at an early age,” says Nozicelo Ngcobo – Public Affairs, Communication & Sustainability Director, CCBSA. “The programme has especially been effective due to the commitment of the teachers and learners to involve the community and their families, proving that building a culture of recycling is a unified effort.”
The programme also creates young ambassadors for environmental stewardship at home and within their direct circle of influence, driving responsible behaviour in their families and communities. At the end of each year, the CCBSA Schools Recycling Awards recognise the best performing schools, based on the amount of waste collected.
The top schools receive prize money that goes towards upgrading their school facilities, over and above the revenue they earn during the year from selling waste for recycling. During the rigorous adjudication process, judges consider not only how much waste each school has collected, but also how they have involved communities and parents in their recycling initiatives.
“The programme’s intention is to involve young South Africans directly in the mission of ensuring that discarded waste does not end up as litter or on a landfill site, with schools being the perfect partners,” says Ngcobo.
Over the years, CCBSA has developed a new group of green economy entrepreneurs through the programme.
The collectors were responsible for collecting waste and instilling a collection culture in the schools, as well as reporting of data on a weekly basis. They led the motivation of schools and the distribution of basic recycling infrastructure.
Through CCBSA’s support, the collectors went through intensive training on a number of courses, which they have successfully completed.The purpose of this business development assistance was to develop growth-orientated strategies that will help collectors to be more sustainable in the long-term using a high-level gap assessment of their core business needs.
“The programme has taken a life of its own over the years, with collection becoming an integral part of school life,” says Ngcobo. “In recent years, we have also established buy-back centres in remote communities, where children and the elderly can bring recyclable material and earn an income, helping further with maintaining our eco-system while providing an economic opportunity to the most vulnerable.