23 April 2019

Absa Group launched a #BeatPlasticPollution campaign last week as a commitment to reducing its environmental footprint. The group has replaced a range of single-use plastic items used by about 22 000 staff members daily at restaurants and coffee bars at nine of its sites in South Africa.

The group replaced single-use straws, cups, cutlery and food containers, among other items, with locally-produced biodegradable alternatives which have been developed for the South African climate.

The campaign was trialled successfully at three sites initially. Absa launched the initiative at campuses in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Umhlanga and Port Elizabeth last week in a move that will significantly reduce its reliance on plastic products and shrink its plastic footprint. The intention is to widen the initiative over time.

“This first stage should represent a reduction of more than 1 125 cubic meters of plastic waste per month. This is in line with our commitment to reduce our environmental footprint and take action to fight climate change,” says Aveshen Moodley, Absa’s vice president for environmental sustainability.

“We need to change the way we see and use plastic. Everyone must take responsibility for changing their habits. Small individual changes can add up to a big difference,” Moodley said.

A range of activities got underway last week to draw staff attention to the #BeatPlasticPollution campaign and the role they can play in reducing plastic waste and helping to preserve the environment.

Close to 500 billion plastic bags are used around the world each year and nearly one million plastic bottles are bought every minute, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. An estimated 13 million tons of plastic reach the ocean each year, killing marine animals.

“These alarming statistics show the danger to the environment – it is impacting the ocean, a major source of food and a critical part of the biosphere,” Moodley says.

The campaign forms part of a wider drive to reduce the business’s impact on the environment as well as being a force for good.

“Absa’s 2018 environmental savings through waste recycling was significant,” Moodley says. These included 527 439 cubic metres of carbon dioxide, which equates to the emissions of 408 cars for a year.

“Through recycling, we save on energy and for us that resulted in saving the equivalent of 2.7 million kilowatt hours of energy in 2018 – this is equal to the amount of energy it takes to charge 245 million smartphones.” Over 3 788 trees were saved last year as a result of Absa’s waste recycling programme.

“This isn’t greenwashing – serious recycling efforts are underway behind the scenes as our employees go about their day, and we continue to trial new technologies wherever possible.”

Caption: A view of the #BeatPlasticPollution staff awareness campaign at Absa’s head office in Johannesburg