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Shipping of plastics containers for recycling to Europe

Cameroon: NAMé Recycling sends its sixth container

Interview with Thomas Poelmans, Director of Development at NAMé Recycling.

Policies of the countries of the South in the field of plastic waste management are a major issue in the fight against pollution and global warming. While some countries have chosen to ban the production and sale of such wastes, others focus on implementing recycling strategies that could benefit everyone.

Cameroon is among those who have chosen the second option; because it seeks to develop the recycling of plastic materials, so as to join, so to speak, the useful to the pleasant, and to bring its stone to the building.

On this subject, NAMé Recycling has already sent 3 containers of recycled plastic bottles leaving for Europe. It is to know more about this expedition, and those to come, that I went to meet its Development Director: Mr Thomas Poelmans.

What is Plastic Waste Recycling?

It’s important to know at the outset what is a waste. For the layman, an object becomes a waste when one wants to get rid of it. However, it may be a waste for such, but not for such another. Recycling means contributing to sustainability and the circular economy. That is, a product is never really a waste product. Consider the case of a plastic cup, which once used can be considered a waste to put in the trash. However, it is not really a waste, because it can be reused to make other products such as a bottle, another cup, a computer mouse, etc.

So recycling is avoiding creating waste. Objects are reused as raw material to make new objects. In other words, recycling is giving a second life to raw materials. The first reason for this is that there is a shortage of raw resources. Because the planet's resources are not infinite, it is necessary to use intelligence to re-use the resources that are already in circulation. The second reason is the cost of producing a plastic object. Because recycling a plastic cup requires fewer resources and can cost less than producing a plastic cup pulled directly from virgin raw materials; Include all internal and external costs.

How are these plastic wastes harmful to our environment?

About plastic waste, there are different impacts: The first impact is the pollution of the seas and oceans, which causes serious health problems for wildlife and flora population.

The second impact is that encountered outside the seas and oceans, namely impact on land. In fact, the plastic materials found on the surface of the earth, need several decades to be able to degrade and this is not ecological at all.

The third impact is the burning of waste which, when carried out, generates toxic fumes that are harmful to health.

And finally, the fourth impact is the waste of resources in raw materials and energy. This is a pity all the more that, this represents an important financial capital, which is trampled underfoot.

Given the fact that these materials have value and need, and because the world's population is growing, it is necessary to be intelligent and sparing in the use of our resources.

What opportunities are available to us by upgrading our plastic waste? Especially in the countries of the South?

Regarding NAMé Recycling, the opportunities are at the level of employment and reuse of recycled raw materials at lower cost. We have a team that oversees collecting the bottles, another one that handles sorting, pre-treatment and treatment.

What NAMé Recycling produces are pure pellets, which can be reused as raw materials.

The main objective is to use and sell as many plastics as possible in Cameroon. Because from a sustainability point of view, if you can sell these recycled resources on the local market, it's more interesting than exporting it to other countries.

Today, we note that in Cameroon there is not yet a real culture of the use of recycled plastics in production processes. Nevertheless, we have a good collaboration with the company CAMLAIT that buys our recycled plastic and uses it in the production of their products. It remains a challenge for us to sensitize Cameroonian users to the use of recycled materials, rather than using virgin materials.

Moreover, we sell on the local market but also on the international market. If there was the possibility of selling on the spot in Cameroon everything we produce, then we would sell everything on the local market. But for now, this local market alone is not enough, to sell all our products.

Several containers of plastic pellets through your company, were sent to Europe to be recycled. Can you tell us more about this expedition?

Yes!!! Today six containers have been shipped from Cameroon to Europe, sold in Belgium and the Netherlands. Now we have six other containers that are being prepared to get started;

These recycled plastic pellets are sold to reference companies in Belgium and the Netherlands. They are dealing with the last stage of the recycling process called "bottle to bottle recycling". Because to produce recycled bottles, there are very high standards and therefore these partner companies deal with the latter process.

We have partnerships with several recycling companies. For us, it is very reassuring to see that the quality of our products makes it possible to have quality and value in accordance with international standards. This was one of the lessons learned from the other projects. That is to say, there are many people who recycle plastics, of course, but who never reach the level of purity and cleanliness they need to compete in the international market. It is a real know-how that by the experience of our international team.

Why we can’t recycle them locally?

Making bottle-to-bottle recycling is something that is being considered, but that requires a considerable investment. Once the quantity of our products to be recycled is sufficiently high, we intend to recycle on site from 2018 or 2019. This will be a real option to implement and is the preferred option from a sustainability point of view and from an economic point of view as well.

However, if an investment of this magnitude is to be, machines can run full-time. And especially that there is a follow-up and supervision in their use. Otherwise, we would not be able to recover all the funds injected.

What is the procedure for such an outcome?

There are several procedures to be followed at the level of export by the country issuing Cameroon, but also of the import by the receiving space that is Europe. Because we are talking here about the transport of waste and therefore there are rules in force at the level of the Basel Convention, the procedures of the OECD countries, the EU and so on. It is important to assure authorities and customers that the materials are not polluted, that they are clean, and not harmful to health and the environment. In this regard, my experience in this field, having worked with companies that exported and recycled electrical and electronic waste, enabled me to be well equipped in the field of cross-border waste transport.

Did you encounter any difficulties in sending these containers? How do you solve them and what does it imply financially?

The cost of such shipments is important, hence our desire to sell as much as possible on the local market. But given that today there are not many customers for recycled plastics in Cameroon, all this is a cost that we accept and support. Costs that we will try to reduce more and more, and as we go along. On the administrative side, we were also able to negotiate good arrangements with our local logistics partners, not to mention that our transport company is one of the shareholders of NAMé Recycling. All this makes it possible to optimize transport costs and facilitate collaboration.

How many containers will you send in the future?

We were up to four containers a month, one container a week. We have just moved to six containers. And our goal is to get at least ten containers a month.

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