5.2.3.2 Economic Reasons
Apart from environmental motives, economic forces were also the major push factors among the companies that were directly involved with recycling activities. Although these companies were 86% of all companies sampled for the study, the subset constituted 100% recycling companies. This made economic sense since this push factor was responsible for financing environmental wishes. This combination made recycling a sustainable venture but not without the social dimension as will presented later. All these companies felt that recycling was a business opportunity just like any other businesses which bring in profits, which sustains the ventures. Thus, companies felt the value in waste could be tapped for economic development.
The economic importance of recyclable products like scrap metal, plastic and e-waste was also considered “Waste has value as it is raw materials in the wrong place” these were opinions that were expressed by company A officials. With demand for raw materials rising accompanied by escalating prices of virgin materials, companies felt it was an opportunity to participate in this industry as a way of making money. Those in manufacturing felt it was cost saving as they could buy cheaper raw materials from recycling. Companies B and C involved in manufacturing of products especially plastics said that virgin pellets (raw materials) needed for the production of their goods were quite expensive as compared to recycled ones (secondary raw material). Virgin materials were sourced abroad which made them expensive due to high transport costs and foreign currency demands. The price for virgin pellets was N$20.00/kg from abroad whilst recycled pellets were N$3/kg locally. Using secondary raw materials, companies viewed it was a cost cutting measure as their imports of the raw materials from international sources were making their goods less competitive on the regional market.
Furthermore company O and I added that recycling made economic sense as it reduced municipal costs of waste management. Waste management was considered quite expesive.The manager of company I to maintain landfills required a lot of money. In Windhoek for instance, the mountainous terrain was cited as one of the greatest challenges for the development of new sites at reasonable costs and with the “Not In My Back Yard Syndrome” this would leave council with no choice but to develop distant sites which would attract high transport cost. The promotion of recycling was a welcome development. If it were not for recycling, maybe Kupferberg would be full by now he said the manager of company I.
It cannot be overemphasized, that without economic benefits the perpetuation of recycling would be virtually impossible, hence it can be concluded that companies directly involved were doing so as a business although they were aware of the environmental obligations.
5.2.3.3 Social Reasons
Recycling was considered as a source of survival by company J. Their involvement was driven by the need to earn a living as the husband had lost his job in the formal market and could not find alternative employment opportunities. Thus, involvement in recycling was the only option available to them. This finding is also supported by studies in African countries (Mamphitta, 2009; Mbeng, 2013; Dlamini & Simatele , 2016) where this industry is a saviour for the unemployed as anyone can earn a living through recovery of recyclables.
Even though the researcher did not interact with the waste pickers, company officials who dealt with them on a day to day basis pointed out that waste pickers were mainly participating in recycling activities driven by poverty. Through selling their recovered materials, the monies obtained enabled them to buy food although most of it was used for buying alcohol as the researcher learnt. Some respondents were happy about their efforts as it was a genuine way of earning a living. The findings of this study are consistent with the findings of the study done by Reno (2009) who concluded that most waste pickers collect waste merely as a means of survival as cited in Mampitta (2009).
Findings from this study revealed that the high level of unemployment in Namibia contributes to a number of individuals participating in the informal recycling industry. A study by Croset (2014) p.33 in Namibia also supports this findings “Tsumeb has a small community of informal workers acting in recycling because most of them are only scavenging for food “. The same sentiments were aired in Windhoek by some company officials interviewed in this study.
The researcher concentrated mainly on formal companies due to language barrier. This is an area of further research to understand the contribution of waste pickers in the recycling economy.
5.2.3.4 Other reasons
Solid Waste Management (SWM) Division of the City of Windhoek (Cow) within the Department of Economic Development and Environment established in 1997, embarked on the recycling initiative in 2010. The main drive was hinged on the company policy to ensure that Windhoek becomes not only a cleanest City, but ultimately a green City as dirty surroundings were seen as jeopardizing the image of the City. Company O said the main motive was to keep the City environment clean, reduce waste at disposal sites and maintain the status of being the cleanest City in Africa. The status of being a clean City came at a cost to residents who sought to protect it as revealed by City officials. In support of this the city implemented a Cost Recovery Accounting Model based on the principle that sufficient income be generated from the residents to whom the service is rendered, in order to be able to sustain the required standard of service delivery. Thus, a tariff structure was established and implemented as reported in the SWM Newsletter Issue 6 (January-March 2015).
As highlighted earlier, the company was motivated again by the need to reduce disposable waste as the implementation and maintenance of waste management systems and services was getting more and more expensive. These findings are consistent with other studies done elsewhere Cheru, (2016); Mahajan, (2016); Mosia, (2014), Makwara & Magudu, (2013). Reno, (2009) concluded that the need to recycle in most countries municipalities is inevitable in the face of increased waste generation. Mahajan (2016) found out that in Indian megacities, municipal solid waste management has become a challenging problem, especially in cities like Chennai, which generates 0.71 kg of municipal solid waste per capita every day the highest in the country thereby creating a number of environmental and health challenges.
From the discussions with most participants, recycling was considered to be environmentally driven. However, most companies involved in recycling indicated outright that it was for business purposes as well since it was a business venture like any other as well as a source of new raw material. Only those small companies and government institutions did not mention recycling as a business. Thus both environmental and economic factors were the major drivers of recycling in Namibia.
5. 2.4 Extent of involvement in the recycling industry
The researcher wanted to establish the extent of companies’ involvement in recycling. The researcher posed the question: “What is the extent of your involvement in the industry in terms of collection, processing, manufacturing and purchasing and selling of new products?” Companies were involved in recycling in different ways. In this discussion the company operations are grouped in the following broad categories: involvement in the recycling processes, products range, and other activities.
5.2.4.1 Extent of Involvement with regards to processes
Companies A, D, E, F, G, H, J, K, L and N were involved in the first step of the recycling loop, involved in collection and processing. Of these companies, 64% were into collection and 57% in pre-processing activities such as sorting, cleaning and volume reduction. Company D situated in Okahandja town was the only one involved processing, a situation attributed to lack of knowhow and skills. 28% of the companies were involved in manufacturing and selling activities as evident from the empirical data presented in Table 4.5, Chapter 4. The discussion on the findings will be further categorized into non-metallic processing, metallic processing and manufacturing and selling companies. Some companies participated in one or more activities.
Non Metal Waste Processors
According to literature, the system of kerb-side raw material recovery requires homeowners to separate recyclable raw materials from their garbage and place them separately alongside the street for pickup by a private or municipal recycling agency on a regular collection schedule (Sukholthaman, 2012 ; Scheinberg et al., 2012). The following companies were directly involved with non-metals recycling: Companies A, D, K, and N. These companies partake in raw material recovery, collection, pre-processing as well as promoting recycling as a sideline activity. The contribution and involvement of these companies in the recycling loop is given in more detailed in the following sections.
Company A: The main activity of the company was collection and processing of recyclable raw materials in Windhoek, Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, with other collections activities reported to be carried out in the northern regions of the country through depots that were established over the years. Collection was from different sources such as households, commercial businesses and industries through the use of their fleet of about 70 vehicles which had grown over the years from one small truck. The company was involved in the free collection, of a wide range of materials such as aluminum/aluminum food cans; papers, glass and plastics which were also witnessed by the researcher during on site observations. However, confidential documents were charged on collection and companies were issue with destruction certificates on accomplishing the task. About 8/9 trucks were reported exporting these material to SA per month comprising an average of 300 tonnes of glass, 100 tonnes of cans, 700 tonnes of paper and 29 tons of clear plastic. However these figures varied in amounts from month to month. One branch in tyre collection revealed that lack of markets for the product had resulted in stoppage of collection of the product resulting in 70 tonnes of rubber tire lying idle.
Company N: was established in 1994 as a family business in Keetmanshoop. Initially, the company started with scrap metals recovery but at the time of research the company was collecting and processing carton boxes, plastic paper, glass, , metal cans and scrap metal ferrous and non-ferrous. Raw materials were collected in and around Keetmanshoop, Karasburg, Ais Ais, Nerkatal dam, Gondwana lodges and NWR in the south. Most of the raw materials in Keetmanshoop were recovered from the dumpsites by contracted workers who collected about 15 000kg of plastics per month. Individuals who brought recyclable raw material were paid but the practice was said to be creating challenges as the people ended up stealing from each other for the sake of getting more money. After collection, materials were sorted, crushed, baled and transported to SA. Plastic and paper was chipped and used to make pillows and duvets. Apart from this effort, the company was educating people about benefits of recycling which was met with resistance. The researcher found out that anyone who was known to support the initiative was discouraged and vandalism of equipment was evident. Efforts to open recycling stations in Karasburg and Luderitz were futile due to lack of cooperation from the people. Despite these challenges, the company was working hard to promote a culture of recycling in southern districts of Namibia. The company worked hand in hand with all recyclers from top levels down to grassroots levels. In 2013 the company was involved in a cleanup campaign, which took place at the /Ai-/Ais Resort, which yielded 17 357kg of glass in the form of bottles, 1 684kg of tins and 1 641kg of steel metal. The dumpsite was established in the early 1960s and had accumulated domestic and industrial waste over the years. The Company later donated metal bins and plastic collector bags, which were used to store the materials. The raw material was transported to Keetmanshoop, where it was weighed and the proceeds were divided among the volunteers, as a token of appreciation and also as an incentive for future initiatives.
Company K: Only one company was involved in e-waste recycling at the time of study. This was a Windhoek based company whose main business was transport and logistics and e-waste was being done as a sideline business. At the time of study, this company was involved in the collection and processing of e-waste from any generator such as residence, government institutions, commerce and industries. Collection was done for free. However, some of the materials were brought in by the residents themselves. With the cooperation of the corporate world, the company introduced some drop off points at colleges, schools and universities and other institutions in the City. Generation of e-waste has increased in Namibia just like any part of the world due to more usage of electronic gadgets, in homes, institutions, retail and industries. A wide range of products is given in table 4.7 in chapter 4. Before the company involvement in e-raw material recycling, all e-waste generated in the country was disposed at landfill and dumpsites or left idle in homes, institutions or industries. Even up to this day not all e-waste is being recycled in Namibia. Outside Windhoek, e-waste is still being disposed at dumpsites, since this company is only operating in Windhoek and does not take e-waste from outside the capital due to a number of logistical and legal issues. Legally the local authorities act stipulates that each local authority is responsible for its waste hence recycling across local authorities is seen as illegal. Therefore, in small towns e-waste is still finding way to dumpsites together with general waste despite known hazards to the environment and humans (for recycling to be effective and contributory to waste management this issue needs addressing). E-waste processing involved sorting, dismantling of the different components of the gadgets, baling of precious minerals and their transportation to markets and subsequent disposal of unwanted materials such as plastics to Company D and scrap metal to Company E or to the dump site. A visit to the company found that this was done in a metal structure which was going to be replaced with a bigger and better structure as the current one was not up to standard. However, on the day of visit, the researcher was not able to see them working and taking of photos was not allowed. The researcher was able to see a variety of e-waste raw materials that were still to be sorted and dismantled.