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S.Africa’s BanQu app represents model for African recycling efforts
South Africa’s BanQu recycling app represents a key business model for African private sector efforts to support recycling.
The app will be showcased as a business model at the 2023 Africa CEO Forum with the application’s CEO and Co-founder Ashish Gadnis dur to join United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Executive Director Inger Andersen in a discussion on how Africa’s private sector can contribute to the fight against plastic pollution.
The application was launched in 2020 by Suzan Kubheka Banda, who was called “the queen of waste”.
In 2020, Banda started using the BanQu App, a blockchain-based traceability app that gives its users real-time data and reporting.
“The app records the material waste pickers have recycled, the weight and the price,” said Banda. She especially appreciates the weekly and monthly reports that the app prepares so she can see how much business the center has done and how they can improve their numbers.
The app demonstrates how a business can leverage digital tools to connect informal waste pickers and buyback centers to major recycling companies such as PETCO and international producers like Pepsico, WilMar and Solvay. The larger firms, meanwhile, have BanQu’s information at their fingertips to ensure transparency and traceability of the materials in their supply chains.
In 2014, BanQu introduced blockchain-based technology that creates a ledger of transactions that allows informal waste pickers to build verifiable records of their collections and earnings while helping them build credit.
“We spend a lot of time with informal waste pickers on the streets of Nairobi and Johannesburg and other cities around the world and connecting them to the larger recycling infrastructure and systems,” said Ashish Gadnis, Co-Founder and CEO of BanQu. A level of coordination and partnership that Gadnis said has allowed BanQu and its partners to collect around 30 million kilos of PET or Polyethylene Terephthalate a year.
According to Gandis, BanQu brings a level of transparency and traceability to the industry, benefiting not just the informal waste pickers and buyback centers but also the major brands who are the only ones who pay to use the app.
Companies also use the app to track their compliance with the Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR), a scheme that requires producers to finance the collection, recycling and responsible end-of-life disposal of plastic products.
Africa’s private sector is increasingly seeing business opportunities in the recycling sector, which was once mainly in the purview of local governments. Businesses are driving innovation and market development through technology and infrastructure upgrades, supporting the public sector in managing plastic waste.
Although developing countries in Africa are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of plastic pollution due to its nascent recycling sector, the problem is global. More than 400 million tons of plastic is produced every year worldwide, a third of which is designed to be used only once. Less than 10 per cent is recycled. An estimated 19-23 million tons end up in oceans, rivers and lakes annually.