Redeeming waste plastic

Litter used to create jobs in Jordan, Kenya

Over half of the 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic produced since the 1950s has found its way into landfills or the natural environment. 

An estimated 12 million tons of plastic waste leak into oceans every year, wreaking havoc on livelihoods and ecosystems. Some studies suggest that if current trends continue, oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050.

Plastic pollution is found everywhere from Mount Everest, the highest mountain peak in the world, to the Mariana Trench, a seven-mile-deep section of the Pacific Ocean.

Efforts are underway in many places to repurpose these materials, which are made from natural gas liquids, liquid petroleum gases, and natural gas.

MEDA’s Jordan Valley Links project helped a Jordanian business introduce a biodegradable packaging line, and another to create employment by diverting waste plastic from the environment. 

EarthPup, the winner of the 2021 MEDA pitch competition, is certified plastic negative. The company donates a portion of sales from each product to help an African firm remove twice as much plastic from Kenyan lands as is used in EarthPup’s products — Ed

Plastic waste is a serious problem in Jordan for several reasons.

  • About 6,000 tons of black agricultural plastic mulch waste is produced each year in the Jordan Valley, which is the nation’s breadbasket. 
  • In some cases, this plastic flies in the wind at the end of a farming season. As much as 90 percent of livestock deaths in the region result from goats and sheep eating discarded plastic sheets and tubes, then suffering fatal stomach and intestinal blockage.
  • Area landfills are being overburdened with plastic waste, which has to be incinerated, polluting the air.
  • Recycling operations are not economically feasible due to high energy costs in Jordan.
MEDA helped several firms in Jordan deal with waste plastic, says Helal Ahsan-Ul-Haque, who headed the Jordan Valley Links project.

The Jordan Valley Links (JVL) project, a five-year effort funded by Global Affairs Canada and donations from MEDA supporters, assisted two innovative approaches to tackling the problem of plastic waste.

JVL worked with RZ (also known as Alhadaf International Company), one of the largest disposable items producers in the country, to install a new manufacturing line so they could produce completely biodegradable products. Given the right conditions and presence of micro-organisms, fungi, or bacteria, such products will eventually break down to their basic components and blend back in with the earth.

This initiative helped RZ be competitive in the global market, expanding business opportunities to Europe and North America, said Helal Ahsan-Ul-Haque, who served as MEDA’s country director for the JVL project.

JVL assisted almost 450 home-based businesses to begin using this biodegradable packaging, increasing the shelf life and customer appeal of their products, he said.

The project also helped Jordanian business Karak Star reduce plastic waste, provide jobs and create a carbon-reduced synthetic fuel.

Karak Star was producing egg trays but was facing losses, struggling to maintain its business due to high production costs, particularly high energy costs. Its three competitors had already ceased operations.

A feasibility study led to discussions of installing a machine to cook waste plastic mulch and produce synthetic oil.

The machine became the first such effort in Jordan, the Middle East or North Africa. It turns 1,700 tons of plastic waste each year into 1,300 metric tons of synthetic fuel.

The cost of producing the fuel is about one-third of the market price for fuel. 

The plastic reclamation effort employs 800 women and youth entrepreneurs who collect, store and deliver waste plastic mulch to the Karak Star plant.

Karak Star’s machinery runs off gases produced in the plastic conversion process. It is also able to sell the fuel it produces to neighboring firms. “It is almost a zero cost production line.”

MEDA contributed half of the total cost of the machinery for the pyrolysis plant, about $115,000 USD.

Karak Star is considering building a second plastic conversion plant, Helal said. There also have been expressions of interest from entrepreneurs in North America and Israel/Palestine, he said.

Pet food firm reduces plastic

EarthPup, the Toronto-based pet treat firm that won MEDA’s 2021 pitch competition, is serious about reducing plastic waste.

So much so that they promise to be plastic negative, removing twice as much plastic waste as is used in every product they sell.

EarthPup donates a percentage of revenue from each product purchase to fund the collection of low-value plastic waste from oceans and landfills.

The plastic is collected, processed, and reused by Taka Taka Solutions, a Kenya social enterprise that employs people to collect waste plastic.

Taka Taka’s website says it operates “a vertically integrated model of collection, sorting, recycling, composting and trading.”

The firm manages 2,400 tons of waste monthly, recycling more than 90 per cent of the waste it collects.

EarthPup is also working with rePurpose Global to reduce use of virgin plastics in its products.

rePurpose Global is a New York-based “plastic action platform” that provides advisory, action and advocacy solutions to help people and companies calculate, reduce and offset their plastic footprint.

For further information

https://www.earthpup.co/
https://takatakasolutions.com/
https://repurpose.global/
To calculate your personal plastic foot- print, go to: https://repurpose.global/survey

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