Although paper and plastics packaging company Mpact has been processing liquid packaging successfully, not enough cartons are being collected for recycling.
“Consumers don’t realise that liquid packaging, such as juice and milk cartons, are actually recyclable. We need to put in an effort as companies, brand owners and government to publicise that such packaging should be put in the Ronnie bag or in the bag for recycling so that we have enough feedstock,” says Mpact CEO Bruce Strong.
This form of recycling is environment friendly, as it ensures that cartons are diverted from the landfill, he says.
Mpact’s paper-based liquid packaging recycling plant at its Springs paper mill is able to run different mixes of recovered liquid packaging, and other barrier coated paperboard products such as coffee cups and fast food clam shells. Other similar plants globally are only able to processes a certain category of liquid packaging products.
The company commissioned the Springs-based facility last year to further its ability to recycle cartons. Strong says the facility provides an additional source of fibre that the company can use in paper and carton production.
He highlights that the company beneficiates recyclable material that would usually be sent to landfill locations across the country. It collects materials for processing at its three paper mills through its network of buy-back centres.
Strong explains that, when a package contains certain recycled materials, it is often perceived as being of a lesser quality, but this is not the case anymore; recycling techniques are now able to deliver products that are similar to those made using virgin materials.
“It is a good thing that consumers have difficulty recognising when a product has been recycled, this speaks to the high quality that the recycling systems in South Africa have already achieved. However, some products do identify on the label that they use recycled material,” he points out.
He adds that, generally, there is only a symbol that shows a product should be recycled. These are perceptions that have to be overcome. Consumers and distributors need to start recycling now; everybody needs to be part of the solution.
Last year, Mpact commissioned the R765-million rebuild of its Felixton paper mill in KwaZulu-Natal, which included a new paper machine and automated warehouse.
Strong explains that the automated warehouse – completed in December – does not need any operators or forklift drivers to operate. The warehouse uses a probe that stacks paper rolls up to 15 rolls high and automatically organises the warehouse to be ready for any orders that have been placed. Several hundred paper rolls can be stored anywhere in the warehouse through an automated crane.
“This is a classic example of where the Fourth Industrial Revolution is already in our front yard. “The capabilities that come with not only forecasting and predicting the next day’s work, but also tracking products and production processes that are large,” he says.
He highlights that, owing to the automated processes of the warehouse, there are no alleyways for forklifts to drive through, which increases the amount of space that can be used for paper rolls.
Strong highlights that the company provides training; however, with Industry 4.0, the company has to train its employees to use new machines to ensure that staff are able to adapt to the way that Industry 4.0 works.