2022 Beckers Sustainability Award Operations with Impact: Community-driven approach to waste management
Congratulations to Beckers South Africa, winners of the Beckers Sustainability Award 2022: Operations with Impact. Every year, we are impressed by the standard of nominations and this year’s winner showed how a proactive approach can bring quick returns.
The award went to Beckers South Africa for making a huge progress on our journey to zero landfill in a very short time. As a Group, we have set a target of zero landfill by 2030. But right now, in South Africa, greener alternatives are limited and often prohibitively expensive, with little to no existing culture around recycling. The local team, however, has been proactive in establishing smarter and more sustainable ways to deal with waste.
Lazarus Mofokeng, Anderson Sukubala, Richard Shebambo and Gregory Sykora
To understand a problem, you need to know the scale of it. With no accurate method to calculate how much waste our site in Vereeniging is generating, the first challenge was to address this lack of data. By adding a lifting mechanism that hooks onto the skip bin, the precise weight can now be measured. Being able to weigh the rubbish revealed that the monthly waste from the site, estimated at 2000kg, is around 700kg. In South Africa, where recycling still in its infancy, waste is not routinely separated. There is also no standardized labeling for bins, which makes it difficult to involve the wider community in solutions or develop common behaviors. After consultation and research, the team created a set of stickers that can be applied consistently and easily understood regardless of language or educational background. This was especially important because community engagement is a central lever of the new waste strategy.
Recycling for all
Rather than buy new bins (creating more waste), we are reusing materials from our own production processes. It turns out that IBC drums make great recycling containers, which we are now using to separate plastic, cardboard, paper, aluminum, and compost. Once filled, we weigh them, and arrange for collection.
Collection is currently carried out by contractors, but the goal is to make the recycling operation self-supporting by activating the local homeless community, who unofficially already collect a lot of refuge which they either repurpose or try to sell on. As collectors, they will earn money as well as contributing towards a zero-landfill future for South Africa.
Since launching in 2022, the scheme has proved extremely successful, with high participation rates and positive feedback so far from local staff.
About the Beckers Sustainability Award
We would like to praise the engagement and creativity of all the employees who took part. Overall, we had 72 nominations from many Beckers sites in 2022 – the highest number of participants ever.