DuPont and Partners Close Loop on Circular Economy Project
Closing the loop on the unique Virtuous Circle project, more than 500 additional double school desks made from recycled plastics will be delivered to primary schools in South Africa over the course of the final school term of the year. In a breakthrough in recycling technology made possible by this multi-stakeholder circular economy partnership, the final batch of these desks will be made entirely from recycled waste from multimaterial household packaging waste.
“The Virtuous Circle” has brought together business and civil society organizations from Europe and South Africa to develop new circular economy solutions for multilayer waste, while educating children on the importance of nutrition, food waste prevention and sustainability at the same time. “Innovative partnerships that look at different angles of the same overall challenge are key to driving forward the circular economy” according to Tom McLaughlin, Responsible Sourcing at Woolworths Foods, one of the lead sponsors of the school desks along with Amcor, DuPont and Futurelife.
From Classroom to Classroom – the Circular Economy in Action
At the heart of the Virtuous Circle are the schools that have taken part in the project. Since October 2016, more than 650,000 of Futurelife Smart food meals have been distributed to schools across South Africa in innovative dual compartment multilayer pouches designed to optimize the transport, storage, preparation, and consumption of nutritious children’s meals. While the pouches are highly effective in terms of food waste prevention, the multimaterial multilayer packaging involved has traditionally been considered difficult, if not impossible, to recycle. One of the core aims of the Virtuous Circle has been to challenge this assumption and test innovative methods of creating new products of genuine value from the recycled multilayer packaging waste.
The school children have played a key role in translating this ambition into action and creating a circular economy solution with a difference. Once they had eaten their Futurelife Smart food meals, they helped collect the pouches and other difficult to recycle multilayer waste in their surroundings. The packaging was then collected by project partner Wildlands, who bulked it and then sent it off together with their other relevant post-consumer waste streams, including multimaterial multilayer waste to another project partner, RWPA Solutions. RWPA Solutions converted the Wildlands sourced post-consumer waste into a usable recyclate raw material, which was then extruded into plastic planking and assembled into Wildlands Green Desks.
The end product meets a genuine need, as according to the Tutu Foundation, the desk shortage estimate is around 3 million in South Africa and 90 million across Africa. And importantly, by creating something with a direct impact on their everyday lives, children and teachers are able to experience first-hand the importance of sustainable waste management and the potential of the circular economy.
100% Multilayer - Breakthrough in Recycling Technology
The introduction of innovative additives known as compatibilisers as part of the project has had a crucial impact on the recycling process. Using compatibilisers it is now possible to produce a 100% multilayer recyclate raw material that can be used to develop not only desks and but also products serving larger market segments, such as construction materials. This creates a whole new range of outlets for multilayer packaging in a circular economy. “Working with DuPont, we were able to recycle different types of multilayer films together. What makes it special, is the technology that overcomes the time-consuming sorting of the multilayer waste by component. In the past, this represented a significant barrier to cost-effective and efficient recycling. By recycling all multilayers together, we are changing the face of recycling in this area,” says Iqbal Hirji, Founder of RWPA.
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