Tyres: a burning issue
With 60 million of old tyres stock piled or dumped around South Africa, waste tyres have become a significant problem. The country’s waste management infrastructure is almost inexistent and recovery rate for disused tyres hardly reaches 4%. Illegal dumps filled up by 10 million of waste tyres per year are not the only problem, when burnt for heat in impoverished households waste tyres cause significant pollution.
Established in 2010, REDISA (Recycling and Economic Development in South Africa), a non-for profit company, has been set up to mitigate the negative impact of the waste tyres whilst involving local communities and creating jobs in the informal sector. The scheme that has been initiated, the “world first plan stems”, claims REDISA, is a real integrated approach to recycling.
“The REDISA story is the outcome of a unique collaboration between government and the private sector. The South African Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) drove legislation to enable the establishment of an extended producer responsibility programme, operating independently of the tyre industry but with 100% compliance from both local manufacturers and tyre importers. REDISA was established in 2010 and, in 2012, the DEA approved REDISA’s Integrated Industry Waste Management Plan to drive a circular economy within the tyre industry.
Funding for the implementation of the REDISA Plan is collected from tyre manufacturers and importers, who are mandated to pay a waste tyre management fee directly to REDISA. For the first time, manufacturers are being held accountable for what they produce. Experience shows that where manufacturers are encouraged to regulate themselves, some do and some don’t. Some pay and some won’t. In Germany, 60% to 70% of tyre manufacturers pay an industry body to discharge their extended producer responsibility for them. In South Africa, the figure stands at 100%. The difference is that, in Germany, extended producer responsibility is voluntary; in South Africa, it is mandatory.
Statistics show that before REDISA existed, South Africa was dealing with only 4% of the total tyres being generated as waste. After almost three years from being given the formal mandate to start operating, we have moved the percentage of waste tyres being diverted from landfill or illegal burning from 4% to 70%, created over 3000 jobs, and support more than 200 SMMEs.
However, getting here has not come without a few challenges. One of the biggest challenges we have faced to date is educating people about the opportunities that can be found and created in waste. To date we have seen a shift in how communities deal with waste. More and more people are seeing the value in used tyres. No longer seen as waste, they are vanishing from our landfills and instead re-entering the economy as recovered raw materials, fuel, waste bins, paving, industrial and domestic furniture and artwork.
We have also successfully defeated the biggest hurdle faced in encouraging circularity, namely funding. If it was easy to recover and re-use materials profitably, then business would be doing so. We argue that, at a macro level, it is not only a necessity but also profitable once you take into account all the externalities that effectively subsidise a linear economy.
For example, plastic water bottles that become waste have to be collected and managed by ‘someone’, typically local or regional governments. Thus the utility of the plastic bottle is being subsidised by organisations. In addition, uncollected waste becomes an environmental and health hazard resulting in medical and amenity costs.
Our model means that the cost of all the externalities are incorporated into the cost of production through a fee (typically mass-based) which is added to production costs and paid to the Extended Producer Responsibility Organisation (EPRO). Assessing all of these costs can be difficult and controversial but the estimation can be greatly simplified by calculating the costs to institute a reverse logistic network to gather all discarded material, and to establish and support effective recycling and recovery.
There is strong evidence that achieving circularity in the economy generates economic activity, creates jobs, avoids negative externalities and is net-positive to GDP. Through continued collaboration and work with partners in government and business, we will be able to build more sustainable, efficient and long-term socio-economic solutions.”