Recycling has manifold benefits for many areas of the economy – providing raw materials, jobs creation and inspiring business opportunities and innovation. The recycling industry is now demonstrating it is technically feasible and economically valuable to produce goods from 100% recycled plastic for example. New technologies are also disproving previous assertions that recycled materials must essentially be of lesser quality. This is an opportunity to invest in the recycling industry at a time when consumers are increasingly horrified by images of plastic waste piling-up at landfill sites and drifting in our inland waterways, and oceans.
Africa should join countries that are on a transition to a Green economy. Waste and Recycling Industry is now part of a global economy, which has positive and negative impacts on the local environment especially surge in exports of secondary materials. Increasing demand for resources across the globe is moving recyclables to countries with market opportunities. E.g. Waste is processed and turned into plastic pellets that the company exports to other neighbouring countries such as Mozambique and Botswana. The plastic pellets are used to produce water pipes and other products such as plastic chairs. The industry if developed to a modern standard offers a promising opportunity for economic development, value creation and skills development for Africa.
COVID-19 shrank economies around the world. However, the crisis presents an exceptional economic opportunity for many to rebuild green and potentially bounce back stronger than ever. This opportunity is importantly obvious for Africa continent when considering the waste and recycling industry.
Though products and resources are made, consumed, and disposed of in a linear economy, in a circular economy they are recycled, repaired, and reused. This approach eradicates waste, fortifies resilience and is fast gaining power as a new model for sustainable growth.
With the right enabling environment, Recycling offers a promising opportunity for economic development, value creation and skills development. And with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing countries across the globe to restructure their economies, Africa is in a strong position to take advantage of these emerging economic opportunities.
After the assessment of market opportunities, a set of enablers have been identified that will be vital to support the transition to a circular economy across all five themes. These enablers are:
- Supportive policy to encourage Recycling businesses and activities, ensure standards and facilitate trade across African countries – Business development services (BDS) such as advisory services and training, market linkages and strategic partnerships to increase the survival rates and performance of Recycling businesses
- Increasing the availability of relevant data and information to support informed policymaking and investment decisions
- Supporting increased access to technology to facilitate consumer use of Recycling solutions (through mobile phones) and access to imported green technology for processors
- increasing access to relevant financial services for Recycling businesses, particularly informal MSMEs
- Investing in appropriate infrastructure solutions, particularly for waste collection and treatment
In addition, electronic-waste management has become a major challenge facing many African countries because of lack of awareness, environmental legislation and limited financial resources. Attracting more investment for recycling electronic waste will support green job creation and increased value capture. One significant opportunity lies in developing the electronic-waste recycling industry and extensive collection facilities. This will require goods produced with longevity in mind, designed for recycling or repair. It will also include legislation that limits foreign electronic-waste disposal in Africa e.g. Agbogbloshie, Accra Ghana, such a shift could create new jobs and move many informal waste pickers to the formal economy.
For the textile industry the current system for producing, distributing, and using clothing operates on a predominantly make-use-dispose model. A new textiles economy – based on circular economy principles through recycling – would promote to better results. One instant economic opportunity for this sector includes recycling fashion and textiles waste into garments for commercial export markets.
For the Agricultural industry using re-forming practices for the growing of crops such as cotton that improve the soil, and practices that move away from fast fashion to new business models based on upcycling existing garments. These changes also could tackle waste on a range of levels as less than 1% of material used for garments is recycled. Furthermore, the fashion sector currently uses 342 million gallons of oil each year to produce plastic-based fibres.
Honestly, such changes cannot happen instantaneous. Such changes will involve collaboration and a range of enablers systems and structures that help make change happen. Such enablers include policies, business support, financial incentives, new technologies and infrastructure as discussed in detail in paragraph 5. These investments can bring new opportunities and resilience to the African continent, protecting its resources and people.
With such changes, Africa could serve as a model to the world on how to make the circular transition via recycling a certainty, influencing how we live and work in the in the future.