Dear Friends & Colleagues,
I have completed my second and final year as chairperson of the USE-IT board and I am very grateful for the opportunity and experience. My second term has covered an eventful time for USE-IT as an organization and an interesting for business in the waste beneficiation sector, in eThekwini and in South Africa as a whole.
Read the annual report here.
My second term started at the last AGM, so it would be a useful starting point to reflect on in this message. Our guest speaker had a vast experience in alternatively to landfill including waste-to-energy technologies, particularly anaerobic digestion (AD).
Having been involved in both commercial AD plants in South Africa, the speaker touched on the challenges of not only finding the alternatives, but also getting them to work in the South African environment. Such challenges include the securing of funding, securing feedstock, and more importantly, doing proper research and development to safeguard such investments. Of the two plants mentioned, the larger one with an investment of over R 400 million, has since closed its doors in November 2018 after opening in May 2018.
Unfortunately, this has naturally put a negative stigma on alternatives to landfill in general and on anaerobic digestion in particular, despite being a widespread technology used for the same waste stream across Europe. The reason why the larger one hasn’t worked is probably multi-fold, but it stems from a lack of support for alternatives. This is by way of support for research and development, funding mechanisms, feed in tariffs, policy, extended producer responsibility, trade shows (to demonstrate new technologies), etc.
All that being said, there is still a massive appetite for alternatives as awareness grows. More importantly, I have realized even more over this second term, that USE-IT is uniquely positioned to enable such solutions.
Being primarily funded by the municipality, it has a strong link to local government. It is a non-profit and public benefit organization, meaning that its primary mandate is to tailor solutions for the public good. Finally, it has a track record of providing knowledge support to entrepreneurs and continues to do so. This has come to fruition with the completion of Phase 1 of the Hammarsdale Waste Beneficiation Centre, which is 1.5 hectares of an 8.2-hectare plot – a project which has a primary mandate of waste beneficiation with a focus on incubation of entrepreneurs. This project is unique in its purpose and has overcome many challenges to be where it is.
So, what’s missing? For starters, there needs to be policy in place and enforcement of such policy to support some of the initiatives. Then it comes down to feed-in-tariffs, support for research and development, the funding mechanisms.
There is scope for all of this, and much work is being done in many sectors, but often in isolation. Again, USE-IT is uniquely positioned to bridge such a gap and I foresee this as one of its most important roles in the near future.
Some of our other recognitions over the last year (2018/19) have included:
Eco-Logic Awards 2018 - Bronze Award – Recycling and Waste Management - Rambrick
Eco-Logic Awards 2019 - Silver Award – Eco Warrior – Chris Whyte
Afrisam-SAIA Award - Sustainable Architecture & Innovation - Rambrick
Energy Globe National Award 2019 - National award for Sustainability – Inspiring solutions on our doorstep
There has also been some success in supporting recycling practices, (e.g. plastic), and some which are set-up in principle and will be ready to deploy once either legislation or the market catches up (e.g. glass and compressed earth block). USE-IT also champions advocacy via the KZN recycling forum and the Business Sustainability Forum (now under the banner of Circular Economy Club – Durban) and marketing.
Finally, while USE-IT is primarily funded by the eThekwini municipality, one its mandates is to leverage funds to support its mission and promote economic growth of the municipality. There has been great success in this department too.
Of course, chairing a board does not come without its challenges, but I was fortunate to have been surrounded by an enthusiastic board. Thanks to Jessica, Mark, Paulos, Quade and Heidi. Well done to Chris for taking the vision of the organization into practice.
Special thanks to Phakamile and Thakalani for board oversight from eThekwini’s side. Thanks to Sally for looking after the books, and a very special mention to Belinda Putterill for the hard work which hasn’t gone unnoticed. A new year will bring new challenges. I myself will unfortunately have to step down from the board as I have other commitments. I wish the new chairperson all the best and bid everyone a fond farewell.
Linus Naik - Board Chairman