Midmar home to hub of waste innovations and solutions

On June 11 a crowd gathered at the Wildlands Recycling Depot at Midmar, Howick to officially launch WISH – Waste, Innovation & Solutions Hub.

WISH has been enabled by Dow (sustainable materials science company), which has made a global commitment to address plastic pollution and ensure that plastic waste does not enter the environment, but is treated as too valuable to be lost to waste. WISH is also a result of a partnership with “The Pyrolysis Group” in association with USE-IT, a Durban based recycling non-profit.

Speaking at the launch, Wildlands’ Recycling Manager Hanno Langenhoven said: “I am excited and privileged to be part of a journey that looks at real solutions to the waste problem. If we fail to transcend the focus on recycling and come up with value-add solutions, we will continue to struggle with the ever-increasing waste problem, as well as consequential negative environmental impacts and health issues.”

The WISH launch uncovered an extraordinary brick machine, glass crusher and pyrolysis machine.

Mxolisi Malambule and Lindani Madlala feeding plastic into the ‘green brick’ machine at WISH. Pictures by Mariska van den Brink

The brick machine is a South African developed solution that builds on work of this kind globally. The “green brick” that this machine produces – uses no water, no cement and no sand in its production – is a world first. The 14kg building brick is made from 30% plastic and 70% glass, weighs less than a normal building brick and is much stronger. The machine can produce 200 building blocks a day, diverting 9.8kgs of glass and 4.2kgs of plastic per block from landfills.

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“The long-term vision is to place brick plants wherever the plastic problem persists, especially in communities with a lack of, or poor, service delivery. In the medium term we hope to have four brick machines in operation at our Midmar facility, with a focus on providing bricks for use in Wildlands’ community development projects, as well as supplying surrounding communities,” said Langenhoven.

Mbalenhle Radebe taking ground glass from the glass crushing machine at WISH.

“A set-up like this becomes economically viable and self-sustainable when industry take responsibility for the packaging they put into the market,” he said. “We are excited to have partnered with local confectionary manufacturer, Wedgewood Crafted Confectionery, who are doing just this, becoming plastic neutral and contributing an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) fee for every kg of plastic that it uses in its operations and packaging.”

Sand blasting

“The glass crushing machine allows us to crush glass on site and separate it into four different grades,” said Langenhoven. “Some of the glass goes into our bricks and we are currently exploring other potential markets. Different grades of glass have different applications, from use in golf course sand bunkers and sand blasting, to chemical and water filtration.”

Pyrolysis, the breaking down of something using fire (pyro + lysis) is a very well-known solution worldwide. However, the combination of a small-scale reactor and a small-scale refinery to turn plastic into a fuel, is a world first. “We have successfully demonstrated that we can turn polypropylene into plastic fuel and that it can be used to power a diesel vehicle,” said Langenhoven.

Duncan Doo of the Pyrolysis Group pouring plastic fuel from the pyrolysis machine into a container at WISH.

“By joining forces with partners such as Wildlands, who are already making inroads in tackling poor waste management, we are changing the conversation around plastics and their value for society,” said Javier Constante, from Dow’s Packaging and Specialty Plastics Business. “Even after plastics have fulfilled their initial purpose, they have significant value and should be treated as important resources and recycled whenever possible. Investments like the WISH centre are enabling all partners in the plastics value chain to more towards a circular economy.”

“Making fuel and building material from plastic and other waste sources open doors to exciting opportunities for getting rid of waste as well as empowering and uplifting communities,” concluded Langenhoven.

About Dow
Dow combines technology with asset integration, innovation and global scale to achieve profitable growth and aims to become the most innovative, customer centric, inclusive and sustainable materials science company. Its performance materials, industrial intermediates and plastics businesses deliver a broad range of science-based products and solutions for customers in areas like packaging, infrastructure and consumer care. Dow operates 113 manufacturing sites in 31 countries and employs about 37 000 people.