Can recycling in South Africa

Submitted by: Amanda Botes, Thursday, September 6, 2012

<p>Recovery rates for beverage cans in Southern Africa have improved from 18% in 1993 to 72% in 2011 (Image credit: <a href=''>matka_w / 123RF Stock Photo</a>)</p>

Recovery rates for beverage cans in Southern Africa have improved from 18% in 1993 to 72% in 2011 (Image credit: matka_w / 123RF Stock Photo)

Southern African beverage can recovery rates are amongst the highest in the world says Gregory Masoka, Operations Manager from Collect-a-Can.  In 2011 72% of all beverage cans consumed in the Southern Africa region were recovered.  Can recycling figures are regional since Collect-a-Can recovers beverage cans across five countries: South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, and Mozambique.

The majority of cans in South Africa are made of steel but imported aluminium cans are also recycled by Collect-a-Can. The steel beverage cans that are recovered are  eventually melted down and used to produce other steel products or are shredded and compressed into steel briquettes which are sold to  some mining industries says Masoka.

Since the foundation of Collect-a-Can in 1993 recovery rates of beverage cans in Southern Africa have improved from just 18% in 1993 to 72% in 2011.  Although food cans are accepted by Collect-a-Can and recycled, Collect-a-Can does not currently monitor recovery rates of food cans. 

Masoka attributes the high recovery rates to the following:

Increased public awareness and education: Collect-a-Can uses the media to educate the public about recycling cans.  Collect-a-Can also has a special focus on schools and runs competitions for schools which teach learners the value of reusing cans.

Appropriate infrastructure and equipment: Collect-a-can has a number of collection depots across South Africa and its neighbouring countries where collectors can exchange cans for cash. In addition Collect-a-can provides free collection bags and offers the services of lending can compressing machines to some collectors at no cost to them. Using a compressing machine allows a collector to transport more cans in one load.  

Schools as collection points:  In addition to having specific collection depots Collect-a-can promotes the use of schools as collection points by paying schools for any cans they collect and providing cash prizes to schools that collect the most cans. 

Informal collectors: A large portion of cans are collected by informal workers who gather cans from the street and landfill sites.

Masoka believes that there is potential for beverage can recovery to improve, and identifies the key role that municipalities can play by offering waste separation services at source.

Collect-a-Can is a non-profit organisation that was started in 1993. Its shareholders are ArcelorMittal South Africa, a steel producer, and Nampak Bevcan, a beverage can manufacturer.


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Amanda Botes