Further price drops in the open market for recycled materials compelled Hannes Neyschens, owner of Walker Bay Recycling, to finally close the doors of the company last week.

The original Walker Bay Recycling facility put Hermanus at the forefront of waste recycling efforts and played a large part in the Overstrand shining at the ‘Greenest Municipality’ awards for several years. Unfortunately these achievements came to a grinding halt when the facility was burnt down by rioters during the 2018 protests. The new owner of Walker Bay Recycling has struggled to keep afloat at his new premises, but additional financial factors have now forced him out of business.

Several readers contacted The Village NEWS and numerous posts appeared on social media after a notice was attached to the facility’s wall on 28 January, stating that it had closed indefinitely. This follows a similar notice in November last year.

According to Neyschens it does not make sense for a company to try and keep afloat when the business model simply does not work. “I cannot keep ploughing money into the business as it would be too risky to do so.

“The market for recyclables took a nosedive at the end of last year and the prices have yet again floundered to a level where it is not economically viable to continue. For instance, no-one can export recycled cardboard to China anymore. This has had a huge impact on the price of cardboard and has made life difficult for many recycling businesses,” he says.

At the start of 2019 the market value for cardboard, for example, stood at around R1 500 per ton. By the beginning of November, it was at around R400 per ton and by December it hovered at a price of R100 per ton.

China has placed a complete ban on importing cardboard from abroad as part of its Blue Sky campaign that started in 2018 to curb the smuggling of waste from countries like South Africa.

During the 1980s, most natural resource monopolies in China were state-owned, and small businesses struggled to get an affordable share of raw materials. Entrepreneurs responded to this by importing recyclables from other countries, like South Africa, and selling them to small Chinese businesses.

Chinese nationals also opened plastic reclamation facilities in South Africa, which allowed them to process the waste locally and export it to China as a finished product. The waste import industry became lucrative in China – so lucrative that local gangs started smuggling recyclables into the country to gain the highest profits.

Blue Sky is aimed at curbing this practice by banning the importation of 24 types of foreign waste, such as paper and textiles, and instead relying on local recycling sources. This has led to South African recyclables, such as cardboard, being stockpiled while they wait for alternative markets to open, subsequently driving down prices.

Neyschens says he wants to thank the locals who have so dutifully supported the business. “While I still have three months left on my lease agreement, our gates will not be open and we urge residents not to drop any waste in front of our gate as it cannot be collected and will need to be moved to the dump at great cost.”

According to municipal Director of Infrastructure and Planning, Stephen Müller, the tender for the construction of a new Material Recycling Facility (MRF) will be advertised soon. “In the meantime, we are also busy with the land consent-use planning process. At this time, we foresee that the new MRF will only be used for recyclable waste. There will no longer be a transfer station, as was the case at the old MRF, where all waste was dropped off before being taken to the Karwyderskraal Landfill Site; instead there will be a smaller drop-off point. This will assist with removing any bad odours emanating from household waste.

“Once the new MRF is in place, hopefully by the end of the year, recyclables that residents put into clear plastic bags will be transported to the MRF, while all other waste will go directly to Karwyderskraal.”

Müller says the current public participation process also includes plans to move the wood-chipping facility to a municipal farm in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. The planned site is located on the road to the Camphill Community and near the Forest Adventures Zipline facility.

“We are aware that there are objections to this move but installing the large wood chipper at the new MRF site will impact the school children at the adjacent Zwelihle Primary School,” Müller says.

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