Products made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) can be hard to recycle. Although South Africa saw a 3.9% increase in the total amount of PVC diverted from landfill in 2014 (18 488 tons), vinyl is still often, and wrongly, regarded as being not-recyclable. However, SAPRO’s Recycled Product of the Year Awards which took place in Stellenbosch recently, proved that there is a growing market for recycled vinyl products.
“It was especially in the category for novel and artistic products where we saw the majority of entries made from recycled PVC”, says Delanie Bezuidenhout, CEO of the Southern African Vinyls Association (SAVA). Novel and Artistic products are a great outlet for recycled products. Not necessarily mass produced, they play a valuable role in diverting plastics from landfill and creating consumer awareness. Initiatives in this category support small South African producers, and in particular non-profit and community groups.
Three of the five finalists in this category who made it to the final round recycled used PVC banners and billboards to create top end, high demand products that are being sold around the world. “PVC banners used for advertising an event or a product have a very short life expectancy. Because they are made from reinforced PVC in order to withstand the elements, they cannot be recycled in the conventional mechanical waste stream,” Bezuidenhout explains.
E’Yako Green walked away with the Gold Award in this category, with their Conference Bags made from recycled PVC banners. “E’Yako Green has partnered with a small black-owned, Gauteng based factory to make these conference products and has once again proven to the judges and the general public that eco-products needn’t be boring or expensive to be useful and eye catching,” Bezuidenhout says.
Since 2013, they have up-cycled about 24.5 tons of PVC waste and 300kg of polyester waste and created 13 full time jobs and an average of four temporary jobs. Export orders have been supplied to Australia, Austria, Switzerland, Germany and Norway.
Upcycled PVC banners also featured in the beautifully made Shews, which were entered by Eco-Smart Solutions. This company was the Gold Winner in 2012 with their Geyser Blanket, as well as a Silver Winner in 2013 for their Lifestyle Range, which also used recycled PVC banners. To date, more than 1 500 pairs of shoes ranging from size 3 to 9 have been sold.
Customers buy the shoes because of their comfort, variety of colours and the wide ranging size options, rather than being up-cycled. They are water proof and has a drawstring which facilitates half and in-between sizes. The shoes are sold in special tote bags that are also covered with one of six colour shwe-shwe cloth. The shews are exported to the UK, USA and Germany and has been ordered by large international brands such as Samsung and the Sheraton Hotels. SAVA is a proud supporter of the project and has donated two industrial sewing machines to help Lise Kuhle, MD of Eco-Smart Solutions, and her team grow their business even further.
Creative Waste entered their impressive-looking Travelers kit, which is made from a combination of waste materials with a creative artistic touch. It is not only appealing to the eye but also strong and durable to meet the customer’s needs. The affordable kit is made up of a tog trolley bag, a backpack/messenger bag, a toiletry bag and a tablet/notepad cover and addresses all the needs of a traveller. In each of the items, the outer layer is made from synthetic rubber tubes and the lining from polypropylene shade cloth with PVC banner trimming.
The tyre tube serves as a robust, protective layer, apart from it being waterproofed, while the inner lining creates a shade to keep the content at a controlled temperature.
“We have seen an increasing demand from corporates who want or need to support small South African producers and non-profit community groups in particular. There is also a very definite trend towards companies wanting promotional products that are different, creative and unique and have a real feel good story. From SAVA’s side, we are extremely excited to see how many of these top-end products find their inspiration from recycled vinyl. We welcome any initiative that assists us in our efforts to maximise diversion from landfill and create new job opportunities, and will continue offer our support to these entrepreneurs in any way we can,” Bezuidenhout concludes.