The Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of South Africa (REDISA) was established to help the country benefit from the opportunities that waste presents.
“A high unemployment rate and achieving a 5% annual economic growth rate are just some of the challenges South Africa needs to overcome. Given the fact that the country generates R25-billion per annum on waste, R17-billion of which gets buried in landfill, there is massive potential to transform it into economic opportunity,” says Stacey Davidson, director at REDISA.
To do this, the country needed a regulator to help drive the industry and ensure the market was viable for competitive behaviour. Enter REDISA.
“We chose tyres as a starting block to use for a proof of concept. The distribution network was well established, resulting in tyres being collected straight at the dealerships. Tyres also meant that we could deal with an environmental problem and go beyond treating the symptoms to getting to the root of the problem.”
Davidson says that if incentives are in place and the right people are appointed in key areas, other businesses start gravitating towards it. This will also see good behavioural patterns being established that could change traditional mind-sets.
“Our linear economy is a structure that is exploitative. We take, we produce, and we throw away. With REDISA, we want to drive a circular economy that never wastes a product. This will result in a service-based approach that will see people always repair, re-use, and refurbish material.”
Being more resource-efficient
The move towards becoming a resource-efficient economy will have a significant impact on the global economy, Davidson believes.
“Through REDISA, South Africa has become the first country in the world to have achieved this circular economy on a macro scale. For example, Europe still struggles to implement this approach. With tyres, we have a 100% compliance rate while Europe is struggling with 60%. The success of this project is thanks to the perfect collaboration between the public and private sectors. A legislative environment has been created to allow the system to work.”
This has resulted in a natural product life cycle that looks after itself.
“REDISA has become the catalyst to drive the circular economy. Our next step has been the development of a plan for general waste. With informal settlements not designed for waste collection, our focus has been on putting a plan in place that sees these communities use waste to drive economic activity.”
This means businesses can be developed around the preparing, sorting, and recycling of waste. Communities now have a commodity for people to harvest and they be trained in the skills they need to do so.
“This helps address the huge challenge of unemployment. With our tyre model, we are well on target to create in excess of 2 500 jobs by November this year, and creating 245 small businesses. We have taken the processing of tyres up from 4% two years ago to almost 70%. The reason for this growth is having an independent body that can act as a catalyst, referee, and incubation nurse. The nurse is focused on getting the baby out of hospital alive and starting to contribute to society.”
And that, says Davidson, is exactly the reason why REDISA has been established.
“We want to help drive the economy and create an enabling environment for all South Africans.”