COVID may have done us all a favour after all

COVID-19 wasn’t all bad. For one thing, it has increased interest in our environment and individuals are starting to pressure corporations to improve their non-financial reporting. Corporations want to comply to keep their shareholders and customers happy but some still struggle to implement ESG.

ESG (environment, social and governance) is a refinement of CSR (corporate social responsibility). The difference is it puts the emphasis on the environment and governance and forms part of sustainability reporting. The intent is good but a lot of corporations are struggling to implement ESG. It should be simple – recycle.

Even prior to COVID organizations and individuals across almost the entire developed world started to realize that it cannot be business as usual. Things have to change if we want to save our environment, economies and jobs.  Organizations are changing and individuals are forcing them to do more. Individuals are investing in organizations that actively address these issues – impact investments and impact bonds. Rhino impact investments are an example.

Waste management and reporting is a step closer to actively address some of the issues we face

According to the PWC Consumer Intelligence Report, some $51 Billion was invested in impact funds in 2020. Since then this has grown substantially with investment managers like Black Rock taking the lead in driving this.

There are several different drivers according to a survey done by PWC in March and April 2021. Some 83% of consumers surveyed, 91% of business leaders and 86% of consumers are aware of and want companies to do more for ESG. Those are very high numbers.

Recycling addresses all three of the aspects of ESG. The environment is obvious; by recycling, we are reducing the amount of waste that is sent to landfills. The recycling material is either reused or re-engineered into non-virgin material and then reused.

The use of non-virgin material in place of material that has to be mined or extracted reduces greenhouse emissions and the carbon footprint. Recycling also helps to clean up the environment and reduces the amount of waste lying around and being washed into the oceans.

Recycling & waste management forms one of the largest job creation opportunities in the world

Recycling creates jobs. The government has recognized that it has the potential to be one of the largest job-creating industries and actively supports initiatives. There are many examples of industry associations and NGO’s doing the same.

Apart from the street pickers or reclaimers which provide a living for an estimated 80 000 people, there are many smaller businesses. The “bakkie brigade” consists of one or more people and a bakkie who collect recycling material from many small businesses. They may be unreliable but they often act as a starting point for bigger businesses with equipment and recycling yards.

At Smart Waste we employ over 350 people, mainly women. The vast majority of these are undereducated and have few skills. What they do have is dexterity, which is ideal for recycling in South Africa. We cannot afford the automated recycling equipment which is imported from overseas. Nor should we use it when there is such high unemployment.

As an industry waste management, of which recycling forms a large part, employs something like 300 000 people in various roles.

Almost all commentators on ESG refer to the need for governance. This includes reporting on companies activities, being transparent in doing so and sharing the information with their stakeholders.

Envornment, Social & Governance reporting is made simpler, faster and more accurate at Smart Waste

At Smart Waste we have developed a dashboard, which allows us to offer select clients data on their waste streams in almost real-time. The dashboard is an online system protected by passwords so the data is confidential to the client who accesses it.

The general waste, different types of recyclable material: cardboard, paper, glass, metal, food, polystyrene and tetra pak are separated and stored. These are then collected and transported to a recycler where they are weighed.

The date, mass, destination, and other details are then recorded on a tablet or manually and uploaded to the dashboard. Once verified against weighbridge slips the data is available to the client. Future collections are also scheduled on the dashboard.

Smart Waste dashboard records mass according to standard metrics so that comparisons can be made with other centres. The records are then uploaded into monthly reports which are sent to the client. In addition to showing the mass of each material, the report shows the recycling trends which track the ratio of general waste against recycling. As recycling goes up the general waste sent to landfills (and the cost) – go down.

This can then be tracked year on year and inserted into the company Environmental Reports. Finally, the data presented is backed up by copies of weigh bridge certificates and can be verified in safe disposal and recycling certificates. These are accepted as independent certification by auditors and provide an audit trail.

Recycling has developed tremendously over the last few years. It is no longer a matter of collecting cardboard and sweeping yards. The value of recycling can now be measured and included in clients non-financial ESG reporting.

Recycle Reg
Smart Waste

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