SA’s 2019 recycling champions announced

Rocco Antonio da Silva.

On the back of its recent announcement of a six percent year-on-year increase in the recycling of PET plastic bottles, national industry body the PET Recycling Company (PETCO)has unveiled its 2019 recycling champions – people and organisations making strides in sustainability at grassroots level across South Africa.

The Western Cape led the national list with nine category winners, including Somerset West’s 9-year-old youth warrior, Rocco Antonio da Silva, and Franschhoek’s Jocelyn van der Ross, who overcame unemployment and three devastating fires to run a successful recycling business.

Drakenstein Municipality scooped the award for local authority recycling innovation.

Rocco co-received the Waste Reduction Youth Warrior. At the tender age of 9, Rocco has a big vision and strong determination to clean up the environment by creating awareness about plastic pollution and recycling.

He formed The Future Kids Club, which aims to create awareness and get the youth in his area to commit to participating in monthly beach clean-ups.

Rocco said he started the club because he was tired of seeing litter on beaches. Over the past 14 months, members have collected in excess of 950kg of rubbish off a local 400m stretch of beach, mainly straws, lollipop sticks, cigarettes and, occasionally, bottles.

Asked why he was so invested in the project, Rocco said: “I cannot do this on my own; we don’t have a lot of time. The planet is our future.

“My message to all South Africans is to stop using single-use plastic and get involved in beach or community clean-ups. This award means people are listening to how important it is to recycle plastic.”

Top Woman in Recycling went to Jocelyn van der Ross, owner of Green Spot Recycling, a buy-back centre in Franschhoek.

Green Spot Recycling has overcome the odds, with Jocelyn starting from scratch three times following devastating fires.

“I moved to Franschhoek in 2004. When I first arrived, I asked myself: ‘What can I do to make a difference that no one else is doing?’ I saw all the wine bottles and started my recycling business going through bins,” said Jocelyn.

She started with two employees, and today has 15 staff collecting and sorting recyclables, buying recyclables from three waste pickers. Green Spot Recycling now collects over six tonnes of PET plastic bottles a month.

“This award makes my staff and I feel that we have been doing something right for our environment. We certainly want to grow and do more.”

The Local Authority Recycling Innovation went to Drakenstein Municipality in Paarl, which has transformed the Wellington landfill site from a crime hot spot into a safe, thriving recycling concern, providing a source of income for 30 entrepreneurs.

“When I received the site it had been taken over by informal recyclers and was a public no-go zone,” said Thys Serfontein, senior manager of solid waste and landfill management.

Thys spent time getting the buy-in of the informal sector and explaining the municipal support on offer, including recycling materials and protective clothing. With informal recycler Marilyn “Sussie” Peters as project manager, the dump is now open daily and provides a safe environment in which to earn a living.

Thys said next on the agenda was the building of a R25-million material Rrcovery facility for the entrepreneurs over the next three years.

The project has been so successful that Thys and Sussie have been approached by the Metsimaholo Municipality in the Free State to establish a similar project.