As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the globe, causing many people’s daily lives to come to a standstill, the internet is also abuzz with news about the surprising benefits of the outbreak on the environment. For example, the temporary restrictions of air and car travel has led to cleaner air, and the once murky canals of Venice have recently become clearer. The strict lockdowns in certain countries have also contributed, at least in part, to a noticeable drop in pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
But there is a flip side. It has also led to more use of single-use plastics, which will ultimately have a major effect on the environment. What’s more, the pandemic has led to the delay or abandonment of many environmentally sustainable programs around the world. Many restaurants internationally are no longer accepting reusable containers. Most recently, Starbucks, the coffee giant known for selling upwards of 4 million cups of coffee a day, announced a temporary ban on using reusable cups.
While many companies are dedicating every resource they have to not only help their customers, but to simply survive during these tough times, it is also important to consider our environment during and after the pandemic.
Leading the charge for local businesses making positive changes and developing sustainable innovations is Evalution Flooring, the first luxury vinyl (LVT) flooring supplier in South Africa with a GreenTag Certification on its internationally recognised flooring ranges of Amtico and mFlor. The company has embarked on the first phase of a sustainability project, a first of its kind in South Africa, that will enable zero waste to landfill in not only the LVT flooring arena but also recyclable and non-recyclable waste as a whole.
As part of its campaign to minimise its carbon footprint, Evalution has joined forces with Recycle 4 Africa Waste Management (R4AWM) to recycle offcuts and uplifts by transforming them into eco-bricks, pavers and potentially other re-usable products in the future. Thanks to some extraordinary progress, the first containerised unit to recycle material and create these eco-bricks has been set up at Grandwest Hotel Complex.
R4AWM has provided the containerised waste management unit (CWMU) systems, with more being manufactured as needed. It works by putting waste into one side of the unit to be pulverised, heated, mixed and blended. A binder is then added and the mixture is poured into moulds, which are then cast into blocks or pavers. Anyone who has had training by R4AWM on manufacturing the blocks can use the machine. The container is equipped with the technology to convert non-recyclable or contaminated waste into enviro pavers and blocks. A heat box and mixing system is included in the container to remove bacteria.
When asked what this exciting development meant for sustainability in the industry, Eva Kaiser, founder of Evalution Flooring, said: “Containerised waste management units will convert waste into viable building products and convert waste products from every industry into a generator of income for clients. All industries that generate waste can, and should take advantage of eco-bricks.”
The benefits of enviro blocks for businesses speak for itself. These blocks can be used in building strong, sustainable single-story structures, which is not only more energy efficient, but cost-effective, as the production process is cheaper. Also, the benefits these types of developments will have on our environment are huge. By adding value to all waste, it can be re-used and the environment will clean itself.
Kaiser also has strong thoughts on how this can be adopted into décor businesses to minimise landfill waste. “The product produces something called Enviro Aggregate, which can be cast into a variety of building products like water features, bird water baths, countertops etc. The imagination is all that limits the casting process. We have chosen blocks and pavers as these containers were originally designed for the rural areas to convert waste into blocks and provide employment at the source of waste generation. So, blocks in this context would be the most suitable finished product.”
Kaiser further explains that eco-bricks are suitable for urban and rural environments. “The use of CWMU’s would provide a sustainable employment opportunity for the youth and small businesses. The business concept provides for the upliftment of communities by leasing the containers or providing grants for the purchase of the CWMUs.”
“Considering what the COVID-19 pandemic is doing to our world, I think it’s important that we take the opportunity to start cleaning up our environment and reducing landfill sites. With the CWMU’s, landfill sites could be vastly reduced, ensuring cleaner environments and better air quality. There are guarantees provided for the recyclable materials through the R4AWM company, including long-term business opportunities and suitable incomes to those in our community,” concludes Kaiser.