Recycled-plastic desks support local learning and keep waste out of the water

Two of South Africa’s leading plastic recycling names teamed up with the African Marine Waste Network to furnish a disabled care facility with eco-conscious desks and chairs.

Things are not always what they seem, as visitors to Lake Farm Centre discovered this morning. The residential care facility for intellectually and physically disabled adults was the recipient of a set of desks and chairs that look and feel just like wood, but are made from recycled plastic.

Extrupet, Africa’s leading PET and HDPE bottle recycling company, joined forces with PETCO, the industry body responsible for PET recycling in South Africa, and the Kenton-based African Marine Waste Network, to donate nine desks and 36 chairs to Lake Farm Centre. The furniture was manufactured by Extruwood, using the caps and labels of plastic bottles recycled at Extrupet.

A delighted Marjorie Moore, volunteer at Lake Farm Centre, said that the gift would greatly benefit the centre’s literacy programme, through which residents, as well as members of the public who are in need, are taught to read and write. “The classes instill a sense of pride and self-worth, and promote independence and life skills while developing healthy attitudes,” she said. “Having proper desks and chairs creates more of a classroom environment and enables more people with disabilities to join our classes.”

The furniture, said Moore, would help the learners to succeed, while benefiting the environment at the same time. Desks and chairs made out of recycled plastic are comfortable, portable and require very little maintenance. They are also virtually indestructible, meaning that they typically do not need to be replaced.

Chandru Wadhwani, Joint Managing Director of Extrupet, said that the company is thrilled to be able to support Lake Farm Centre, an NPO that has been helping intellectually and physically challenged people since 1960, and is largely dependent on donations to survive.

“Given the severe shortage of desks in South Africa and many other parts of the world, and with prevailing issues of deforestation, there is a pressing need for alternative resources to be tapped,” said Wadhwani. “These desks and chairs provide a real win-win solution, as they benefit both people and the environment. They divert waste that would otherwise have ended up in our landfills or oceans.”

Janine Basson, Stakeholder Relations Manager for PETCO, highlighted the important role that partnership initiatives like this play in sustainable waste management.

“At PETCO, we believe that plastic bottles are not trash; when they are recycled, they are made into new bottles for water or beverages or recycled into new and useful products such as polyester fibre for duvets and pillows, or jeans and t-shirts,” said Basson. “Similarly, the manufacture of these desks from recycled bottle tops and labels demonstrates that, when there is an end-use for recycled plastic, we can ensure it is kept out of our environment and within the circular economy.”

The event was a milestone in PETCO’s own partnership with the African Marine Waste Network, an organisation committed to solving marine waste issues across the continent. PETCO provides financial support for the Network’s Communications Hub, seeing it as key to effecting change.

Dr Tony Ribbink, Director of the Network, said that he was excited by the proactive approach being taken by these key players in the plastics industry. “PETCO and Extrupet are taking a leadership role in conservation and community support,” he said. “They are helping to keep plastic out of the ocean, and putting it to good use on land instead.”

The overall feeling at the handover was one of hope; while it is easy to feel overwhelmed by issues like ocean pollution, actions like those taken by the Network, PETCO and Extrupet serve as an important reminder that it is possible to make an impact for good.

Wadhwani and Basson said that they hoped others would come forward and participate in future projects. “Anyone can take part in their individual capacity or along with their company,” emphasised Wadhwani. “Those interested in donating desks and chairs are encouraged to contact PETCO.”

Information about how to start recycling can be found on PETCO’s website.

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