"Roughly 122 million tonnes of waste is generated in Africa per year. Of this waste, a maximum of only 10% is recycled or recovered for other uses, while at least 90% is landfilled or dumped illegally," says Sithembile Dlamini, environmental engineer at Kimberly-Clark's Enstra manufacturing facility.
According to Dlamini, waste management has emerged as a critical concern in our modern world. It is driven by the urgent need to protect the environment and align business objectives with the Sustainable Development Goals.
The circular economy stands at the forefront of this transformation, emphasising the principles of:
- refurbishing, and
- recycling materials.
Dlamini says that waste management is rapidly evolving, with companies in manufacturing and packaging industries finding innovative ways to harmonise their operations. Understanding the significance of waste management extends beyond corporate responsibility; it encompasses the far-ranging impact of waste management on the ecosystem and its inhabitants.
An example of a situation that could arise from poor waste management is the spilling of an oil tank into a local river, which would, without a doubt, impact connected water streams as well as the livelihoods of communities in the area, adds Dlamini.
Kimberly-Clark says that as a manufacturer of fast-moving consumer goods such as sanitary pads, toilet paper and disposable nappies, it has been at the forefront of sustainable practices and innovation.
"Our sustainability goal of achieving zero waste to landfill serves as a driving force behind our efforts to improve waste management strategies within our mills. We achieve this by integrating waste minimisation through re-use, recycling and recovery, diverting valuable materials from landfills, reducing waste disposal and phasing out certain unrecyclable materials to reduce the negative impact on the environment and conserve resources," adds Dlamini.
According to Kimberly-Clark, the robust systems and recycling technologies encompass various aspects — from waste segregation bins to energy recovery, composting and recycling across Kimberly-Clark’s manufacturing operations. These initiatives have not only helped Enstra manufacturing facility divert over 95% of waste from landfills but have also opened doors to collaborative opportunities with small recycling enterprises.
Waste management is not limited to the manufacturing industry, it is a challenge that every industry is faced with. This challenge presents an opportunity that multiple sectors can address by embracing the principles of the circular economy and by working together, Kimberly-Clark concludes.
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