Bringing waste full circle

"We need industries that use waster as a resource and commodity," says Stacey Davidson, Redisa director. (Photo: Julian Goldswain)

"We need industries that use waster as a resource and commodity," says Stacey Davidson, Redisa director. (Photo: Julian Goldswain)

The next time you are siting in traffic, consider that for every car there are four tyres. Each of those tyres must be replaced at some stage. 

Every year, the tyre industry produces 237 000 tonnes of tyres; 177 000 of these tyres become waste. In the past, only 10 000 tonnes were recycled. 

The Recycling and Development Initiative of South Africa — Redisa — identified this as an opportunity and created the Integrated Industry Waste Tyre Management Plan to drive the programme through investment in infrastructure, business support and research. 

The idea behind this is driven by a desire to create a functional, circular economy: “We need to extract maximum value from our resources. We have finite resources — to recycle isn’t the [only] solution. We need to create industries that use waste as a resource and commodity.” 

To do this, they have formalised what was once an informal sector. The funding comes from a small mark-up on the consumer product. Stacey Davidson, director of Redisa, says: “R2.30 [from each sale] is used to drive value across the entire industry: bursaries and research into a better more sustainable product. 

“You need an independent player who has no interest in the outcomes. The only objective must be to drive economic growth across the board.”

However, managing a system like this is complex, so Redisa created a software programme. Through this, the new urban economy creates an opportunity for entrepreneurs and secondary businesses to be part of a circular economy. Currently, 1?851 dealers are engaged with over 180 SMME companies, creating a total of 1 900 jobs. 

The operating system is revolutionary, making Redisa one of the most advanced, tech-driven companies in the world. While the genesis of the project was the tyre industry, the operating system can be applied to other industries that wish to implement a circular economy. “It’s a technology designed to be shared. For a small licensing fee, others can maximise value in their industry.” 

 It’s been so successful that, among accolades and awards, Redisa has been invited by the EU to act as advisors to the UN.  The UN estimates that by adopting this approach, they can add up to €1.3-trillion to the economy. The South African government is also on board. 

Redisa has also paired with Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and the University of Stellenbosch to develop ways to extend the lifetime of tyres and to champion better ways of recycling them.

While this may seem contradictory — promoting longevity while at the same time figuring out how to make money from disused tyres — because Redisa functions as an independent, non-profit unit, they are able to make decisions for the industry as a whole. 

“We’re like a collective bargaining tool: we see the whole picture and are able to drive incentives so that everyone will win. Ultimately, it’s about value,” says Davidson.  

“A circular economy works for the environment, because we directly reward good behaviour with economic gain. That way, people are empowered. For everyone, it’s not redistribution — it’s the creation of a new economy and a new way. A zero waste policy benefits us all.”