Introduced in 2017 in the township of Tembisa, Johannesburg, Project Butterfly works with non-profit organizations and local communities to tackle poor waste management through education, clean-ups and innovation-focused initiatives. Currently active in Johannesburg and Durban, Project Butterfly is part of Dow’s global commitment to address plastic pollution and create a more sustainable planet.
Together with community partners, Project Butterfly aims to preserve the environment for future generations by reshaping how communities perceive and engage with plastic waste. The initiative is also advancing a circular economy in South Africa, one that redesigns, recycles, reuses, and remanufactures to keep materials at their highest value use for as long as possible.
“By joining forces with those who are already making inroads in tackling poor waste management as well as local communities, government agencies and associations, we are changing the conversation around plastics and their value for society,” said Javier Constante, Commercial Vice President, Packaging and Specialty Plastics Business EMEA at Dow. “Project Butterfly is about transformation. Even after plastics have fulfilled their initial purpose, they have significant value and should be treated as important resources and recycled whenever possible.”
At the heart of Project Butterfly is the idea that waste can be repurposed into something with social and economic value. In 2018, Project Butterfly teamed up with the WILDTRUST—a leading South African environmental non-profit with three main subsidiaries: WILDLANDS, WILDOCEANS, and WILDENTERPRISE—as they created a new program that would empower local entrepreneurs, known as ‘Wastepreneurs’, to generate income through the collection and exchange of recyclable waste.
“The money has helped me to survive,” said Duduzile Magubane, a Wastepreneur and member of WILDTRUST’s Blue Crew. “As a single parent, I am now able to work and provide for my children.”
To date, more than 715 Wastepreneurs have participated in the initiative, playing a vital role in the plastics value chain by ensuring that waste reaches the WILDLANDS Recycling Depot. Dow is also funding the expansion of WILDTRUST’s Recycling Villages, which include collection points in schools, shopping centres and other public areas that allow consumers to more easily recycle waste. These Villages facilitate the collection of an estimated 2.6 million lb (1.2 million kgs.) of waste each year from more than 10,000 South African homes. In addition, the social initiative is helping WILDLANDS convert unrecyclable plastics into recyclable materials that can be used for green buildings and fuel.
“Plastic pollution is one of the most significant environmental challenges facing South Africa today,” said Dr. Andrew Venter, CEO of the WILDTRUST. “By educating and engaging with local communities about proper waste management, organizing clean-ups and creating green economy employment opportunities, Project Butterfly is helping to create a more sustainable future for our country and the planet.”
At the same time, Dow is underwriting a sustainable clean-up operation in Durban Harbour, the largest shipping terminal in sub-Saharan Africa. The effort is being led by WILDOCEANS’ Blue Crew, a team of local female entrepreneurs who collect waste accumulating along the coastline. This project will enable the collection of an estimated 220.5K pounds (100K kgs.) of recyclable waste from the Port of Durban, including 132.3K pounds (60K kgs.) of plastic material that might otherwise end up in the ocean.
By collaborating with individuals and organizations that are already supporting waste management infrastructure and recycling, Project Butterfly is driving local, sustainable solutions for South Africa. Dow has launched Project Butterfly in other African countries, including Nigeria and Kenya and is set to expand further in 2019, to address this important environmental challenge in Africa.