Reduce, reuse and recycle. This is the message Volkswagen Group South Africa (VWSA) continues to reiterate in an effort to beat plastic pollution.Plastic pollution in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro where the Volkswagen Kariega manufacturing plant is based has become a major concern. “I have noticed the increase in land pollution in most parts of the Metro every day when I travel from home to our plant in Kariega. This is extremely worrying as we know land pollution often ends up in the ocean, causing harm to sea life,” said Ulrich Schwabe, Production Director at VWSA. Schwabe said: “VWSA is on a mission to change attitudes and influence employees, suppliers and customers to rethink plastic usage and disposal.” “We are striving to reduce plastic waste and we are working with our employees and suppliers on finding solutions to reduce plastic packaging in which our parts are shipped by at least 5% by the end of 2023,” added Schwabe. Since January this year, VWSA has already reduced plastic packaging by more than nine tons. “We continue to work with suppliers to find alternative packaging and further reduce once-off plastic usage without compromising the protection of our parts,” said Schwabe. Waste separation bins have been placed inside the Kariega plant production areas to allow for separation at source to take place and prevent contamination of waste streams. “We are in the process of rolling out more bins,” said Schwabe.
Similar waste separation bins are placed in the employee car park to encourage employees to bring recyclable waste from home. Common waste streams include plastic, glass, tin, and paper.Schwabe commended the South African government for the implementation of legislation such as the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations and carbon tax schemes which requires everyone in the value chain to take responsibility for waste disposal. “It is now up to the public to start thinking of a circular economy and the opportunity it gives to informal waste traders. We must stop the habit of dumping and embrace the habit to reduce, recycle as well as reuse,” commented Schwabe. Diverting waste to landfill is one of a number of initiatives that VWSA drives to become a zero-impact factory by 2030. “Decarbonisation is one of our key objectives. We are determined to become 100% carbon-neutral by 2030,” said Schwabe. Over a ten-year period, the company has reduced its energy consumption and carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions by almost half. The water usage and waste reduction declined by 65% and 66% respectively, while solvent emissions reduced by 31%. “In total our environmental impact has reduced by over 50% since 2010,” explained Schwabe.