Community-driven approach to waste management puts recycling at the heart of Beckers life
As a Group, we have set ambitious goals around waste management, with a target that our sites will produce zero landfill waste by 2030. In South Africa, where greener alternatives are limited and often prohibitively expensive, the local Beckers team has been proactive, creating a recycling culture that is both sustainable and community focused.
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 reveals monthly site waste is down by a third as a direct result of the team’s efforts.
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. We are now focused on putting in place safety and hygiene standards that will enable our vision for collectors to be able to earn money while also contributing towards a zero-landfill future for South Africa.
Since launching, the scheme, which is the winner of the 2022 Sustainability Award in the category Operations with impact, has proved extremely successful. It has a high participation rate and positive feedback from local staff.