Women lead the way in eliminating plastic waste

Maputo – A group of 98 women plastic waste collectors have completed a 12-week training course to develop their skills and expand their employment horizons in a job-creating economic inclusion programme supported by Coca-Cola Beverages Africa (CCBA) in Mozambique, while a further 10,466 community members have been educated on the beneficial impact of recycling at the local and global level.

The purpose of the programme was to formalise an association of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic collectors, provide training in the areas of health and safety, technical skills and planning, leadership, organisation and control, and establish formal collection teams which empower the PET collectors as business owners.

The training programme, known as VEM (Valorização e Empoderamento da Mulher), used a train-the-trainer approach to expand its reach into communities.

It was divided into phases, including health and safety training, workplace safety training, covering the areas of collecting, sorting and transportation of PET plastic.

Participants were trained in collection standards, especially identifying PET plastic and sorting it appropriately. They also learned how to keep records for budgeting and planning purposes, as well as the importance of contracts in growing and formalising their businesses.

They also discovered novel uses for plastic bottles, such as growing vegetables to feed their families or sell in their communities.

The women earn a living by collecting plastic bottles that they sell to recycling company AguaPET, which converts the bottles into PET flakes. The PET flakes are then transported to South Africa where they are recycled.

Arnalda Armando Manhiça, a, 27-year-old businesswoman and mother of two, began collecting plastic waste in 2021 after finding herself unemployed for almost two years. She began by working for another PET collector, and with encouragement from that collector, Arnalda began collecting on her own after quickly learning the ropes and wanting to grow her business independently.

She said thanks to the training programme she now understands the greater value of her work and describes her favourite part of the course as being “the strength we give her, the strength to make her own business”.

CCBA in Mozambique General Manager, Duncan Wyness said: “This programme continues CCBA’s mission of leading the way as a responsible business in Africa and aligns with our objectives to develop increasingly sustainable ways to manufacture, distribute and sell our products.

“Focusing on our sustainability pillars of waste management and economic inclusion, this programme is rooted in creating opportunities for local individuals and communities that link them to the Coca-Cola value chain.”

As part of the Coca-Cola system’s World Without Waste initiative, CCBA has committed to help collect a bottle or can for every one it sells by 2030, make all its packaging 100% recyclable by 2025, to have 50% recycled content in its packaging by 2030 and make 25% of its packaging reusable by 2030.

 “We want to make recycling more accessible and to achieve 100% collection and recycling by 2030,” said Wyness.

Last year, CCBA directly empowered 50 women through the training programme in Mozambique and through the train-the-trainer model reached a total of 3,034 women.

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