In a green initiative that is at the forefront of the waste recycling business, The Aerosol Manufacturer’s Association of South Africa (AMA) has teamed up with Collect-a-Can to initiate a countrywide campaign to recycle used aerosol cans.
This follows the recent formation of an AMA sustainability sub-committee to focus on accountability in the areas of aerosol manufacturing, marketplace, social and environmental responsibility.
“The objective of the greater sustainability initiative is to promote best practice in the production and distribution of aerosol cans to achieve the lowest possible environmental impact,” says Mattia De Dominicis of Reckitt Benckiser, who heads up the sustainability sub-committee.
“We’re focusing on encouraging the end user to dispose of their aerosol cans in an environmentally friendly manner. More and more consumers are becoming concerned about the environmental impact of the household products they use, but many feel that their individual efforts won’t make any real difference to the problem.
“It is a common myth that aerosol cans cannot be recycled. The reality is that aerosol packaging is fully recyclable, just like any other metal container, and represents a valuable source of metal for the manufacturing industry, because the metal does not degrade.”
Since most South African households do not separate and recycle waste, most used aerosols in this country cans end up in landfills. It has become a common sight to see “pickers” sorting through waste on landfill sites, as well as in suburban areas, to separate out recyclable items which are then sold to recycling companies such as Collect-a-Can.
To encourage these pickers to collect discarded aerosol cans and bring them in to the recycling companies, as well as to assist in uplifting them as a community, in May the AMA handed over safety equipment to representatives of the pickers who earn a living at the Goudkoppies Municipal landfill site in Devland, south of Johannesburg. The donation included specialised collection bags, face masks and rubber gloves and will be distributed to the estimated 2 000 recycling collectors who are working on the landfill site. The equipment will protect the pickers from the potential health and safety risks of working among the 32 000 tons of waste processed by the Goudkoppies landfill site every month.
“We believe the collaboration with Collect-a-Can will help us in our efforts to minimise the impact of aerosol cans on the environment, by ensuring that as many aerosol cans as possible are reclaimed after they have been used and that they are recycled,” says De Dominicis. “We aim to promote this recycling initiative to many more communities.” We also wish to uplift disadvantaged communities as part of our social responsibility.
In the last 20 years aerosol packaging has gone through several improvements to reduce its environmental impact. In 1984 the body of the aerosol was converted from a soldered side seam to a welded one, allowing the industry to avoid the use of soldered material that contained 98% lead. In 1986 the body thickness of the tin plate was reduced from a thickness of 0.23 mm to 0.21 mm and there is an ongoing initiative to further reduce this to 0.19 mm for certain aerosol products. This design evolution has achieved a significant reduction in waste. In 2008, a more environmentally friendly internal lacquer was introduced.