By Margaret Mvura
Waverley Plastics has become a name to reckon with especially to all those High-density polyethylene (HDPE) waste pickers who are deriving a livelihood from selling to the company which is currently paying higher than others on the market.
At US$0,50 per kilogramme, the cascade, handy andy and pfuko bottles which are a menace on the streets are finding their way to Waverley Plastics which through its electricity intensive recycling systems come out as recycled products ready for reuse.
HDPE or polyethylene high-density (PEHD) is a polyethylene thermoplastic made from petroleum.
It is sometimes called "alkathene" or "polythene" when used for pipes.
Waverley Plastics purchases and recycles plastic scrap and has a capacity of 4,380 tons per annum.
Through the recycling process, the plastic scrap that is collected is chopped up, washed, dried, densified, extruded or pelletised and finally bagged.
The plastic is then used to make a wide range of products like agricultural pipes, buckets and 5 litre and 20 litre containers and virgin material used by the beverages industry.
Speaking during a media tour organised by Environmental Management Agency-EMA, the company’s director Aron Vico said the company has made it their business to ensure that plastics of such a nature are kept out of the landfill.
“At the heart of Waverley Plastics, the core ethic is that every kilogram of plastic is recycled as a kilogram and kept out of landfill sites,” Vico said.
‘Furthermore our production process is continually evaluated and refined in order to minimize the inevitable carbon footprint associated with the manufacturing process.
We also recognise water as a precious natural resource and wherever possible all water used is harvested, filtered, recycled and re-used.”
Recycling plastic scrap, metals, plastics and any other recycled material can help reduce the tonnes of waste finding its way to Pomona dumpsite and other dumpsites across the country.
At Waverley Plastics factory, one finds waste pickers making deliveries with smiles on their faces because they have a dollar in their pocket.
While many can easily mistaken for mad people as they pick the plastic scrap, the waste pickers are undoubtedly making ends meet despite the long distances they make collecting the plastic waste.
Even though many people have now grown accustomed to the 3Rs principle of reducing, recycling and reusing, many of these HDPE bottles still find their way into the streets.
Those that are not able to collect tonnes of plastic scrap, apparently sell it to middle men at Mbare who then take it in tonnes to Waverley Plastics.
Some of these waste pickers come as far as Bulawayo in haulage trucks and queue for their turn at Waverley Plastics.
Joshua Kambanje (39) who has been selling the plastics to Waverley Plastics disclosed that this business has changed his livelihood.
“I have been selling 13 to 14 bales of plastics to Waverley Plastics so I can derive a livelihood. From the money I make through this trade, I manage to pay school fees for my children.”
Steady Kangata EMA’S education and publicity manager says there is so much focus on waste management at the moment because it is a big challenge.
“Focus is now on waste management because it has become a big challenge as seen through the illegal waste dumps all over the central business districts.”
Chrispen Mvukwe (39) and his wife said life has not been the same after engaging into this business.
“It is not much money that one gets from doing this work as compared to the work that you put into it. I walk a lot looking for the bottles in Glenview and Budiriro and I can get half a bale from walking that much. It is however not the same as doing nothing and with that money we get to pay school fees, pay rent and buy groceries.”
Tanaka and Peter Mugadzaweta also concurred that the extra dollar made, has changed their lives.
“The money that we get can reach US$100 at any given time that we come and with it we buy school materials and even pay people to pick the bottles for us.”
Waverley Plastics has 50 employees who take shifts to ensure that the three and a half tonnes of plastic scrap delivered on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are recycled on time.
Waverley Plastics which is a child of Waverley Blankets got its start up capital from the parent company.
Since there is less demand for the locally manufactured blankets made by the company, Waverley Blankets saw an opportunity in recycling plastic scrap so that the company could keep afloat.
Waverley Plastics has for years now been in business and has been training personnel from Waverley Blankets so that the workers are not retrenched.
It is sad that there is an increase in cheaper imports of these recycled materials competing with those made locally.
Many of us rush to buy the cheaper imports without think long and hard how we are consuming litter from other countries instead of consuming our own.
The local manufacturers of these recycled products must bear the challenges associated with recycling this waste.
Among these challenges are power cuts and high electricity costs, water costs which they wish could be lowered.
Perhaps putting duty on the imported recycled materials, increasing the demand of these locally recycled products, curbing corruption by the border posts, giving tax rebates could help the local manufacturers compete and ensure more spending power on our people.
The irony in all this investment is that while Waverley Plastics has invested a lot of money in cleaning up our environment and creating employment in the process, the products made from the recycled material which are in high stock at the Willovale factory has no market since there is no money to buy them.