Helping the needy, saving the planet

By Rizwana Sheik Umar Time of article published Jul 20, 2011

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RIZWANA SHEIK UMAR

Collect the little plastic sealers or tags that keep bread bags closed and you will not only do your bit for the environment but also help change someone’s life by giving them a wheelchair.

One of the country’s 17 volunteer co-ordinators of the charitable initiative, Bread Tags for Wheelchairs, Peter Fielding, of Scottburgh, said he had stumbled upon the initiative by chance in 2009 .

He has collected more than three million bread tags in the past two years.

Initiated two years ago by Mary Honeybun, a pensioner from Noordhoek, Cape Town, the Bread Tags for Wheelchairs project is gaining momentum across the country with the help of the Polystyrene Packaging Council and the manufacturers of bread tags, Sasko and Kwikloc.

The council, which has 396 collection boxes nationally, was formed in 2007 to demonstrate the polystyrene industry’s commitment to the environment through collection and recycling and the safety and health of polystyrene food packaging.

In 2009, Fielding heard that a wheelchair could be obtained for two thousand sealers from a bread manufacturer in Johannesburg. Unfortunately this turned out to be a hoax, but Rotary Scottburgh came to the rescue and donated seven wheelchairs to recipients nominated by children from a local school who collected vast numbers of the sealers.

Later, Fielding discovered that the council hasn’t stopped collecting the sealers.

Frustrated that it had taken a year to collect 750 000 sealers, which is the number needed to buy one wheelchair, Fielding discovered a picture frame manufacturer in Durban who recycled the sealers, made from high-density polystyrene, to produce frames.

He said a wheelchair could cost between R1 000 to R1 500 and to buy one wheelchair, 270kg of bread tags – about 730 000 sealers – have to be sold at R5.50 a kilogram.

Fielding sells the tags to the company by the car load, and with the money refurbishes old wheelchairs.

In the past 12 months, the 66 year-old retired marketing manager has donated 18 wheelchairs to the disabled and the aged.

“Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something. A collective effort has tremendous potential to make a real difference and a lasting impact,” said Adri Spangenberg, director of the Polystyrene Packaging Council (PSPC).

Spangenberg said high density polystyrene had the number 6 polymer identification code and had a good recycling market value: bread tags and other high density polystyrene products could be recycled into coat hangers, seedling trays, cornices, skirtings, outdoor furniture, poles and decking.

Sealers can be dropped off at the offices of the Mid South Coast Mail at the Scottburgh shopping mall, the Scottburgh Library or Ilala Senior Citizens Care Centre in Scottburgh and the Women’s Auxiliary at the Methodist Church in Church Lane, Pinetown.

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