On the 11th of June a crowd gathered at the WILDLANDS Recycling Depot in Midmar, Howick (KwaZulu-Natal) to officially launch WISH – Waste, Innovation & Solutions Hub. WISH has been enabled by Dow, who have made a global commitment to address plastic pollution, and ensure that plastic waste does not enter our environment, but is treated as too valuable to be lost to waste. WISH is also a result of a partnership with ‘The Pyrolysis Group’ in Association with USE-IT, a Durban based recycling non-profit.
Speaking at the WISH launch, WILDLANDS Recycling Manager Hanno Langenhoven said: “I am excited and privileged to be part of a journey that looks at real solutions to the waste problem. If we fail to transcend the focus on recycling and come up with value-add solutions, we will continue to struggle with the ever-increasing waste problem, as well as consequential negative environmental impacts and health issues.”
The WISH launch uncovered an extra-ordinary brick machine, glass crusher and pyrolysis machine.
The brick machine is a South African developed solution that builds on work of this kind globally. The ‘green brick’ that this machine produces – uses no water, no cement and no sand in its production – a world first. The 14kg building brick is made from 30% plastic and 70% glass, weighs less than a normal building brick and is much stronger. The machine can produce 200 building blocks per day, ultimately diverting 9.8kgs of glass and 4.2kgs of plastic per block from landfill daily.
“The long-term vision is to place brick plants wherever the plastic problem persists, especially in communities with a lack of, or poor, service delivery. In the medium term we hope to have 4 brick machines in operation at our Midmar facility, with a focus on providing bricks for use in WILDLANDS’ community development projects, as well as supplying surrounding communities,” said Langenhoven.
“A setup like this becomes economically viable and self-sustainable when industry take responsibility for the packaging they put into the market,” said Langenhoven. “We are excited to have partnered with local confectionary manufacturer, Wedgewood Crafted Confectionery, who are doing just this, becoming plastic neutral and contributing an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) fee for every kg of plastic that it uses in its operations and packaging.”
“The glass crushing machine allows us to crush glass on site and separate it into 4 different grades,” said Langenhoven. “Some of the glass goes into our bricks and we are currently exploring other potential markets. Different grades of glass have different applications, from use in golf course sand bunkers and sand blasting, to chemical and water filtration.”
Pyrolysis, the breaking down of something using fire (pyro + lysis) is a very well-known solution worldwide. However, the combination of a small-scale reactor and a small-scale refinery to turn plastic into a fuel, is a world first. “We have successfully demonstrated that we can turn polypropylene into plastic fuel and that it can be used to power a diesel vehicle,” said Langenhoven.
“By joining forces with partners such as WILDLANDS who are already making inroads in tackling poor waste management, we are changing the conversation around plastics and their value for society,” said Javier Constante, Commercial Vice President, Packaging and Specialty Plastics Business EMEA at Dow. “Even after plastics have fulfilled their initial purpose, they have significant value and should be treated as important resources and recycled whenever possible. Investments like the WISH centre are enabling all partners in the plastics value chain to more towards a circular economy.”
Adwoa Coleman, Dow Africa Sustainability and Advocacy Manager, speaking at the event commented, “Dow is working to ensure a circular economy for plastics and a significant part of that involves innovation in second life solutions for plastic waste. This will drive value for the post-consumer plastic to make it a resource instead of waste. Our partnership with Wildlands is enabling innovations and solutions that will drive this to ensure no more plastics end up in the environment.”
“Making fuel and building material from plastic and other waste sources open doors to exciting opportunities for getting rid of waste as well as empowering and uplifting communities,” concluded Langenhoven.