“Many economic opportunities exist for South African businesses in the field of climate change,” said Dr Timothy Fasheun, Manager for the KwaZulu Natal Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs, at a business forum co-hosted by Proudly South African, the Responsible Packaging Management Association of Southern Africa (RPMASA) and Enterprise Ilembe in Ballito recently. “A scenario analysis conducted in Australia and New Zealand has shown that opportunities in climate change business could be worth millions of Rands per annum and could deliver greenhouse gas (GHG) savings of millions of tonnes of CO2 annually. It makes good business sense to understand and work to manage GHG emissions and to identify business opportunities that are likely to arise out of a carbon constrained economy,” Fasheun explained.

The same applies to businesses sourcing or supplying goods and services locally,” said Dalene du Preez, Executive Marketing and Communications Manager of Proudly South African. “Operating and buying locally not only reduces your carbon footprint but by supporting local business you are supporting the community in which you are based and as such helping to grow the economy of this country. From the end of this year it will become mandatory for Government departments to procure goods and services locally and this will create significant opportunities for South African businesses and stimulate job creation,” du Preez continued. One of the challenges that South African businesses seem to face is finding or recognising these opportunities in order to be able to tap into them. Both Proudly South African and Enterprise Ilembe have databases of companies providing locally manufactured goods and services and are also able to provide information on grants available from the dti (Department of Trade and Industry) to those wishing to grow and develop businesses locally. Government funding trough the National Treasury is also available via the Jobs Fund www.jobsfund.org.za.

An opportunity for local business that is about to land on our doorstep is COP17, the 17th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which will be held in Durban from 28 November to 09 December 2011. The COP (Conference of the Parties) adopts decisions and resolutions relating to International progress in dealing with climate change and successive decisions taken by the COP make up a detailed set of rules for practical and effective implementation.

“COP17 is an enormous undertaking for our province and our country,” said Liz Anderson, President of the RPMASA. “Whilst hosting the conference will provide opportunities for local businesses to benefit from the temporary influx of visitors to our country, the resulting decisions and regulations that come out of the conference will have an ongoing effect on how we conduct green business in South Africa,” Anderson continued. With increasing emphasis on the sustainable use of resources to reduce carbon footprint and GHG emissions, packaging has been recognised as both a problem and an opportunity. The RPMASA encourages businesses to reuse and recycle packaging wherever possible and has seen that business opportunities exist in the recycling and reprocessing of plastic packaging. Chemical and Industrial drums can be recovered to reprocess for re-use or recycled at end of life into other products with large resource, energy and emission savings. An estimated 1.25 million tons of plastic is converted annually, of which only approximately 45% is recovered for re-use. This figure could be significantly higher if more plastic packaging was recovered from the waste stream and processed for recycling.

RPMASA together with eThekwini Health have launched The Happy Drum Project, an initiative that provides thousands of community members in the Metro and KwaZulu Natal region access to clean plastic drums for transporting drinking water. The purpose of the project is to stop the sale of used chemical and industrial drums and containers which pose serious health and pollution risks to the public. The sale of the drums, which are locally manufactured, not only boosts the local economy but also facilities an environment whereby chemical and industrial drums can be reprocessed and recycled appropriately.

For more information about the RPMASA visit their website at www.rpmasa.org.za or contact Liz Anderson or Celenia Padayachee on 032 947 1145.

The RPMASA promotes the safe, efficient and environmentally responsible manufacture, fill, use, collection, transport, reprocessing, remanufacturing, recycling, reuse and final disposal of reusable industrial packaging.