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Green light for Unilever green desk

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Pupils at two impoverished schools who have had to make do with sharing a desk need no longer compromise their academic outcomes thanks to a partnership between Unilever and The Wildlands Conservation Trust.
Skeen Primary School in Alexandra, east of Johannesburg and Saphinda Primary School in Umlazi, south of Durban are the latest recipients of 250 desks each to beef up their under-resourced facilities.
Innovative technology has made it possible for Unilever to transform the way it does business by transforming multi-layered waste into useful items – such as school desks – that can be used towards various community development projects.
Unilever, through its OMO brand, is making a concerted effort in the area of education to empower learners from marginalized communities and drive positive change.
The sponsorship of desks will have a profound impact on literacy development and academic performance at the schools.
Preola Adam, sustainability partnerships manager at Unilever, says: “According to recent reports, just 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling globally. One third ends up in the natural environment and, if current trends continue by 2050, our oceans could contain more plastics than fish by weight.
“It is a terrifying vision for our future and we need to work together, on programmes such as “The Renewed Project”, to better manage the waste we produce and to ensure that it does not become a reality.”
Adam says Unilever has committed to ensuring that all its plastic packaging is fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.
“We hope that our commitment will encourage others in the industry to make collective progress towards ensuring that all plastic packaging is fully recyclable and recycled.”
Unilever’s partnership with Wildlands dates back to 2004 with various waste-preneur projects since supported with the objectives of increasing awareness and encouraging recycling.
The partnership with Wildlands is indicative of Unilever’s commitment to sustainability and its ambition to double its business while reducing its environmental impact.
Louise Duys, director in partnerships, marketing and events at Wildlands Conservation Trust, says: “Up until now multi-layered multi-film materials used to package and increase the lifespan of products have not been recyclable and have, therefore, been incinerated or ended up on landfill sites, placing an enormous strain on the environment.
“Wildlands, together with Rural Waste Poverty Alleviation (RWPA), has developed a ground-breaking solution which, through a combination of grinding and extrusion, upcycles these post-consumer multi-layered multi-film materials into planks which are then assembled into school desks.
“With a shortage of more than 300 000 school desks in South Africa, these desks will help us close the loop by cleaning the communities where we work and in turn, supporting the education of children.”
She adds that Wildlands was incredibly proud to be working with Omo to see the distribution of 500 green desks in schools in KZN and Gauteng, effectively removing 20 000 kilograms of previously unrecycled materials from landfill sites and providing learners with a better chance for their future.
Skeen Primary School principal Phillemon Mashishi says: “The school has 1558 learners and 38 teachers. I was most relieved when Unilever approached us about the initiative as we have been struggling to obtain school desks from 2010. Some parents have tried to assist by providing chairs for their children from their homes.
“The initiative benefits the school immensely as a desk would be shared amongst three learners at a time, making it difficult for them to concentrate. Hence, the timing could not have been better and our learners are thrilled to be receiving new desks.
“I am extremely grateful to Unilever for providing us with a vital tool that will further enhance the capabilities of our learners.”