Cape Town’s fifty/50 Wheelie Bin wins the Recycled Product of the Year Award

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The City of Cape Town’s Fifty/50 Wheelie Bin has recently been awarded the 2015 South African Plastics Recycling Organisation (SAPRO) Trophy for the Recycled Product of the Year, making it the first municipality to submit an entry and win the award. The Fifty/50 Wheelie Bin, developed in partnership with Mpact Plastic Containers, is a standard 240 litre plastic bin that is composed of 50% recycled plastic that is derived from old bins in the city’s system. The city introduced the bin to its existing stock by adapting its procurement specifications for 240 litre plastic bins.

A closed loop system for wheelie bins

The city’s old 240 litre wheelie refuse bins were traditionally made from 100 % virgin polyethylene high-density (PE-HD), a polyethylene thermoplastic which takes long to degrade. Once the bins reached their end of life they were then sold without specifications on what should happen to the plastic waste material. Councillor (Cllr) Ernest Sonnenberg, Mayoral Committee Member for Utility Services, explains, “The City previously disposed of old, scrapped bins by selling them on tender at about 52 cents per kilogram. The tender merely required that the goods be removed with no requirement as to what would happen to them thereafter. When that tender came to an end in 2013, we decided that a new, smarter and innovative strategy needed to be put in place…The City of Cape Town identifies the development of a recycling culture as a priority. We therefore saw this as an opportunity to lead by example.”

The City of Cape Town issued two tender specifications regarding the procurement of new 240litre wheelie bins. “One was for the new Fifty/50 bin itself to be manufactured from 50% recycled High Density Polyethylene (PE-HD). The other was for the City’s old damaged/broken (High Density Polyethylene) bins to be used as feedstock in the manufacture of the new Fifty/50 bin,” explains Cllr Sonnenberg. During this formal procurement process, Mpact Plastic Containers, a leading supplier of plastic containers in the southern African market, was awarded the contract. “The scheme operates on a ‘closed loop’ system –the first of its kind set up between a public authority and a private manufacturer. In other words, the waste plastic from the City’s broken wheelie bins is ploughed directly back through to the manufacturer to create new wheelie bins. This both provides a supply of recycled plastic for the new wheelie bins, and limits the potential of a market for stolen bins developing”, says Cllr Sonnenberg.

The fifty/50 wheelie bin product is affordable, eco-friendly, and durable enough to serve its purpose. “Notwithstanding the use of recycled material in the manufacture of the Fifty/50 bin it carries a 10-year guarantee and is subject to all the vigorous testing and performance requirements as stipulated in SANS 1494:2007,” adds Cllr Sonnenberg.

The Executive Director of Plastics|SA, Anton Hanekom, praised the work of the City of Cape Town as a landmark example, “The Fifty/50 wheelie bin is ground breaking in that the City of Cape Town ignored the traditional concerns with regards to recycled products and compiled a specification for their product in order to ensure reliable, robust and quality performance. They created the first closed loop system of its kind set up between a public authority and a private manufacturer to ensure a steady supply of recyclate. In the last 7 months alone, the City of Cape Town collected 391 tons of bin material in exchange of new Fifty/50 bins.”

Example for other municipalities

The partnership between the City of Cape Town and Mpact is one which can be used as an example for other municipalities who are interested in reducing their environmental impact of the products they procure. Cllr Sonnenberg explains that their hope is that “other municipalities will see this and start interrogating their own processes and where impact on the environment can be reduced.” Hanekom adds, “…this was a text book example of how the entire process should be managed as it paves the way for other municipalities in South Africa to follow suit.” Barbara Thompson, Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs, during her opening remarks at the 2015 SAPRO awards, highlighted the importance of partnerships, stating that “This [initiative] displayed that success can be achieved when public and private partnerships take hands to find solutions.”

SAPRO Best Recycled Products Awards

The Recycled Plastic Product of the Year Awards, organised by the South African Plastics Recycling Organisation (SAPRO) and Plastics|SA, the umbrella body of the local plastics industry, provides a platform to honour recyclers and all involved parties in their commitments to diverting waste from South Africa’s landfills. It showcases products that are made from recycled materials whilst also encouraging brand owners and industries to consider recycled plastics as a material of choice when developing new products. Cllr Sonnenberg adds that the award recognises the efforts which have been made by the city and is “a welcome recognition of the ingenuity and hard work that went into this project.”

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