(SOUTH AFRICA)

Hundreds of ‘green’ school desks made from recycled plastics will be given to primary schools in South Africa as part of a pioneering circular economy project.

The Virtuous Circle initiative, which draws inspiration from the UN Sustainable Development Goals, harnesses breakthrough technology to recycle multilayer packaging used in food pouches given to the primary kids, called FUTURELIFE® Smart food™, to make the double school desks.

Nearly three quarters of a million pouches have been distributed in less than 12 months to schools across South Africa. The Virtuous Circle project has striven to show that this type of multilayer packaging, generally deemed too difficult to be reused, can be recycled.

The project is being spearheaded by an international multi-stakeholder collaboration group, including global science firm DuPont, packaging giant Amcor, Woolworths Foods, FUTURELIFE®, NGO Wildlands and Rural Waste Poverty Alleviation Solutions (RWPA).

Andrew Venter, CEO of Wildlands, said: “In the short term, the reality is that multimaterial multilayer packaging is necessary for its role in food life extension. As such, we need to find immediate solutions that allow for the associated post-consumer waste to be collected and processed. This is a real challenge as this material is currently not recycled. If solutions such as the Green Desk based upcycling of this waste are not adopted, then we will continue to see this post-consumer film waste polluting our rivers and oceans, until alternative recyclable packaging solutions are found.”

And there is a huge need, as figures from the Tutu Foundation reveal that in South Africa alone there is a shortage of three million school desks, while across Africa it is 90 million.

“Innovative partnerships that look at different angles of the same overall challenge are key to driving forward the circular economy,” said Tom McLaughlin, Responsible Sourcing at Woolworths Foods.