News and updates from the continent

Closer than we think to running out of raw materials

Closer than we think to running out of raw materials

Jun 3, 2015

Many of the Earth’s ecosystems are nearing critical tipping points of depletion or irreversible change, pushed by high population growth and economic development. By 2050, if current consumption and production patterns remain the same and with a rising population expected to reach 9.6 billion, we will need three planets to sustain our way of life.

The theme for World Environment Day this year “Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care” which seeks to highlight how the well-being of humanity, the environment and economies ultimately depends on the responsible management of the planet’s natural resources. Evidence is building that people are consuming far more natural resources than what the planet can sustainably provide.

Here in South Africa, the tyre industry is leading the way towards developing a circular economy.  The Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of South Africa (REDISA), as gazetted by the Department of Environmental Affairs, has developed the environment in which a new tyre recycling industry can function, and succeed – resulting in an increase of job creation opportunities countrywide.  While REDISA’s core role is to create job opportunities and support SMMEs, it does so by cleaning up the environment of waste tyres through the development of a new tyre recycling industry.

The REDISA model is working: tyre manufacturers and importers are taking responsibility for their waste; unemployed people are finding gainful employment, SMMEs are being developed and supported by the REDISA Plan, and the environmental disaster that waste tyres represent is being economically and effectively addressed.

Reducing carbon emissions is one of the necessary requirements of change in our global economy. At REDISA when we talk about sustainability, we don’t only focus on reducing carbon emissions– we also think about our impact on other natural resources and how we can increase the life cycle of some of these resources.

Through the remediation of waste tyres REDISA has to date potentially offset approximately 13 857 tonnes of carbon emissions as of December 2013- April 2015. The figure is based on the assumption that all waste tyres remediated through the REDISA Plan could have either been burned – a trend which has become prevalent in our communities where tyres are burned either for warmth – or sold to remove the steel wire for sale or dumped in landfills.

“There are many options available to cut emissions, including using energy more efficiently, switching to renewable energy sources and investing in large-scale afforestation.  We believe though that is time for a fundamental shift in how nations address waste. If waste is recovered and recycled back into new raw materials or used for energy efficiency, creating value in place of the costs associated with waste, then everyone benefits,” says Stacey Davison, director at REDISA.

The reality is that most businesses do not consider the waste that comes from their products or operations as their problem, and few factor the cost of recovering and recycling this waste into their cost of manufacturing, which is costing the environment dearly.

“We firmly believe that by looking at consumer products further than the end of their accepted lifecycle, and re-introducing them back into the economy will go a long way towards our reliance on fossil fuels for new product development,” says Davidson.

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