A new study by the University of Cape Town’s Energy Research Centre shows that recycling could lead to a 0.5% rise in GDP.

The study also notes that reintroducing waste as a commodity could yield social and environmental benefits including a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and soil and water contamination.

The 2016 study investigated the potential effects of reintroducing resources into the economy through the waste management stream.

A previous Council for Scientific and Industrial Research study showed that, of the estimated 19-million tonnes of municipal waste generated in SA in 2011, about 25% comprised mainline recyclables such as glass, paper, tin and plastic.

In 2016, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said her department was planning to help scale up waste-recycling enterprises through a support programme.

Reza Daniels, an economist who heads the research and development unit at the Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of SA, co-authored the Energy Research Centre’s study.

"Our need to grow the economic pie is now more important than ever before. Waste offers us the opportunity to take what is dead capital and bring it back to life by monetising it," Daniels said.

This had been done in the waste tyre industry, but the opportunities for other waste streams were larger.

"This study shows the opportunities that exist and the catalyst needed to make waste a viable economic driver locally," Daniels said.

The study also notes that recycling has the potential to increase domestic supply and lower commodity prices.

Another paper Daniels co-authored highlights that the supply of total commodities in the economy increases as a result of the production of recycled products, reducing prices and providing a stimulus to the economy and exports.

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