Recycling project sprouts Green Desks

A nutritional feeding scheme is sprouting into a world-first recycling project which sees FUTURELIFE food sachets converted into ‘green’ school desks. 

Absenteeism used to be rife at Willowfontein Intermediate School outside Pietermaritzburg.

Not anymore, according to Life Sciences teacher, Thulisile Sithole who helps coordinate a daily feeding scheme at the school made possible by Wildlands and the FUTURELIFE Foundation.

Litter also used to be a problem.

“The school yard is cleaner now,” said Sithole, who last week joined teaching staff and learners in celebrating the delivery of a batch of 20 ‘Green Desks’ made from empty FUTURELIFE food sachets and other waste collected from schools.

Learners at Willowfontein Intermediate School celebrate the arrival of a batch of Wildlands’ Green Desks made from previously unrecyclable plastic waste material collected from school yards. PHOTO: FRED KOCKOTT

The delivery of the Green Desks forms part of a broader “Virtuous Circle” project that promotes sustainable recycling partnerships involving the consumer goods industry, government and civil society – and most importantly, school children.

The Virtuous Circle concept is founded on three pillars – feeding, recycling and education. The delivery of FUTURELIFE Smart Food pouches, the collection of waste for recycling and the manufacture of the Green Desks is all made possible through the support of Du Pont, Amcor, FUTURELIFE, Wastebusters(the global packaging company) Woolworths, the KZN Department of Public Works and Rural Waste Poverty Solutions (RWPA).

“Each desk takes as much as 64 kg of plastic waste out of the environment,” said Wildlands’ Strategic Marketing Manager, Buyi Makhoba Dlamini.

This means that the 20 double-seater desks that Wildlands delivered to Willowfontein on Friday, used up 1280 kg of multi-layered waste that would have otherwise ended in a landfill, or worse, left uncollected – a testament to the world’s endemic plastic pollution problem.

Dlamini said 340 double seater Green Desks would also be made from waste collected along 27km of the Comrades Marathon route in 2017, and a further 340 from the waste collected at the 2017 Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town.

Given the shortfall of 300,000 school desks countrywide, Dlamini reckons that the programme, if rolled out nationally, could not only address this shortage in an environmentally friendly way, but also instil a culture of recycling among children, ultimately resulting in cleaner communities.

She said FUTURELIFE’s involvement had also opened the door to addressing a broader societal objective in impoverished communities: the nutritional needs of school children.

Currently, 27 schools in KZN receive FUTURELIFE’s Smart Food meals.

Sithole, who coordinates the distribution of the FUTURELIFE sachets to 1080 learners at the start of every school day at Willowfontein, said most of the learners came from desperately poor families.

“Before this project started, many kids were often sick and absent. They had nothing in their stomachs,” said Sithole.

“We are overwhelmed by the mercy that has come to us,” said Deputy Principal, Sithembiso Mfeka. “We believe that FUTURELIFE has ingredients that is bringing balance into the bodies of the kids and better functioning of their brains.”

Both Sithole and Mfeka said attendance, performance and results had improved since the feeding scheme began.

Wildlands’ Strategic Marketing Manager, Buyi Makhoba Dlamini, and Willowfontein Intermediate School Deputy Principal, Sithembiso Mfeka, take a seat in a classroom equipped with double seater Green Desks made from previously unrecyclable plastic waste. PHOTO: FRED KOCKOTT

The FUTURELIFE meal (Smart Food) is presented in dual pouch packaging that separates the food powder from clean water. In breaking the inner seal, the powder mixes with the water creating a nutritious food shake.

“This is critical as many people in areas like this don’t have access to clean drinking water,” said Dlamini.

As part of its social responsibility drive, FUTURELIFE has distributed more than 9,1 million Smart Food meals since January 2009. This includes serving up to 150,000 meals to needy children each month.

“Working with Wildlands has enabled us to take the next step in teaching learners about sustainability and the importance of recycling,” said Julika Falconer, CEO of the FUTURELIFE Foundation.

“The kids have also been warned that if they don’t put their empty FUTURELIFE sachets in the recycling bins, they will not get their next Smart Food meal the next day,” said Sithole.

In implementing the 2017 phase of the Virtuous Circle project has set out to manufacture a total of 580 Green Desks for distribution to under-equipped schools around Pietermaritzburg and Durban.

Now read Ocean conservationists endorse Green Desks


Roving Reporters Thin Green Line series is supported by the Human Elephant Foundation.

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