Local recycling project converts medical waste into school shoes

2018-01-31 15:34 - Kavitha Pillay
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Photo: iStock

Cape Town - An innovative project has emerged in Johannesburg that sees the recycling of some types of medical waste into school shoes for disadvantaged children.

And while the idea probably has you raising an eyebrow or frowning in disbelief about the hygienic and functional aspect of the project, we have to admit its quite an impressive feat that ticks off many boxes in sustainable development - from the responsible waste management of plastics to contributing to impoverished communities.

This collaborative recycling project between Adcock Ingram Critical Care, Netcare, the Executive Mayor of Johannesburg Councillor Herman Mashaba, and the City of Johannesburg, is "helping hospitals deal with their safe healthcare waste in a way that creates functional new products, including school shoes" says the City of Johannesburg

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About 1 000 pairs of these school shoes have been given by Mashaba to learners at Masakhane-Tswelopele Primary School in Zandspruit.

“We are promoting a culture of reducing, re-using and recycling waste to ensure Joburg becomes one of the cleanest cities in Africa,” says Mashaba about the initiative that is aligned with the 'A Re Sebetseng' mayoral project which is a clean-up campaign encouraging everyone to take pride in the environment, community and city.

How is medical waste recycled into shoes?

According to the City of Johannesburg, non-hazardous intravenous infusion (IV) drip bags and tubing made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) are recycled into soles for school shoes.

Blue coloured bins were set up for the purpose of segregating uncontaminated used PVC drip bags, nurses were trained, and the PVC waste material was collected by recyclers who then sold it to a company that uses this highest grade and quality PVC plastic to make soles for shoes, explains the City.

“It’s about designing functional products out of our used products, minimising their negative impact on the environment, and producing new products that benefit our communities,” says Colin Sheen, MD of Adcock Ingram Critical Care.

“This is part of the future of plastic recycling and we are making it happen in our city,” adds Sheen.

ALSO SEE: WATCH: Cycling 4 continents in search of effective plastic recycling solutions

The project started with a "long-term commitment to building a sustainable business that has the lowest possible impact on the environment", says the City, adding that Adcock Ingram Critical Care recognised the opportunity to extend the life of drip bag cut-offs and used drips bags which had contained non-hazardous solutions and were traditionally disposed of to landfill sites as waste.

Richard Friedland, CEO of Netcare Ltd, says that the ground-breaking project which aims to create more sustainable solutions "is just the beginning of a partnership in which the three parties have come together to all play a part in reducing waste, pollution and landfill sites, ultimately benefiting all citizens, who can look forward to a cleaner, greener, and better city".

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