In South Africa, tires have a future

Posted on 24 February 2016.

In South Africa, REDISA collects and recovers used tires and creates thousands of jobs in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Since it was set up in 2012, REDISA has collected more than 150,000 tons of waste tires and helped to create 3,000 jobs in South Africa.

The South African tire industry produces around 10 million - 200 000 metric tonnes – of used tires each year. Less than 5% are recycled. An estimated 60 million old tires are today accumulating in the country’s landfills. They are often stored illegally or simply dumped somewhere. This unwanted waste represents a fire hazard and a considerable source of pollution because when it burns it emits toxic fumes. These tires are also a major threat to health since they help several species of mosquitoes to proliferate. In 2012, South Africa decided to deal with the issue by introducing a tough measure: it now requires manufacturers to adopt a used tire management plan. The objective is both to minimize the negative impact of tires on the environment and people, and structure an economically viable recycling market - which is where REDISA comes in.

The Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of South Africa (REDISA) offers tire manufacturers and importers the opportunity to pay and so delegate the collection and processing of their used tires. This independent organization provides the necessary infrastructure to collect waste tires across the country and distributes them to authorized recyclers; it supports initiatives to re-use or recycle used tires; it invests in R & D to improve the durability and recycling of tires. Specifically, the tires are collected from storage places or in urban areas, and are taken to depots by transporters, stored and then transported to recyclers. "Before REDISA existed, South Africa had a [waste tire] recycling rate of 4%. We have been able to increase that to 19% by the end of 2014 and are well on our way to increase that [further] by the end of 2015," the REDISA CEO Hermann Erdmann announced in 2015 in the Guardian.

The plan has also created jobs. Organizations and individuals can sign up to become collectors, transporters or tire recyclers. With an unemployment rate of over 25% – mainly among young people - jobs are a priority economic and social issue in South Africa. Hermann Erdmann believes that the emergence of circular economy initiatives could provide a concrete solution to the problem. In total, REDISA has already collected more than 150,000 tons of waste tires and contributed to the creation of 3,000 jobs, 98% of which have gone to the most disadvantaged people.