A small business owner helped a company win a sustainability award after finding a way to avoid wipes ending up in landfills by repurposing them to make long-lasting and durable products.
Infection Protection Products’ Sani-touch was named Shoprite Group’s Supplier of the Year in the inaugural sustainability category.
Wipes have become an environmental hazard globally, as it falls in the category of single-use plastics.
“The easy assumption is that it would be far easier to simply issue a ban on these products to keep them out of landfills, but this would result in job losses, while pre-saturated wipes also fulfil an important role, says Annette Devenish, Sani-touch marketing director, says.
“Pre-saturated wipes have proved invaluable in the fight against viruses and bacteria, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the challenge is to ensure that the used wipes do not end up in landfills and we had to find a way how this could be achieved.”
The company’s research led them to Katlehong-based entrepreneur Hudon Diphofa, who established a business called Structural Poly Plastics after he was retrenched in 2020 during the pandemic.
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Making wipes sustainable
The research also showed that by making small changes to its wipes and putting appropriate processes in place, the company could ensure that the wipes could be repurposed into long-lasting and durable products that have value to society.
Just over a year ago, Sani-touch launched its green 100% recyclable Saniwipes as part of its drive to recycle used wipes into plastic pallets to use in its own factories and warehouses.
When the idea was pitched to Sanjeev Raghubir, sustainability manager at the Shoprite Group, he embraced the idea.
A year later, all the used green trolley wipes at the entrances of Shoprite and Checkers stores are collected, sorted and recycled into pallets, garden benches, bird feeders and even jungle gyms which are donated to under-resourced schools.
“The more we travel down this road the more uses we find for repurposed plastics and the more value we are discovering in recycling and upcycling. Rather than banning used wipes, the repurposed products create jobs while the repurposed products are serving a useful purpose.”
Devenish says what started as an infection control wipe, introduced to protect the transmission of bugs and bacteria from runny-nosed children, has resulted in, among other products, jungle gyms made from those same wipes.
“It has been particularly gratifying to see the excitement on young children’s faces when we deliver a new jungle gym to their school.”
She says Infection Protection Products is incredibly grateful to the Shoprite Group for embarking on this journey.
“The Shoprite Group is very serious about its sustainability strategy and to be recognised as the winner of the first sustainability award is a real honour.”
The journey is just beginning
However, the journey is still in its infancy for Infection Protection Products and its Sani-touch range of products.
“We hope that in time, other retailers will join us on this journey. Together we can make a meaningful difference to sustainability – recycle more, upcycle more, empower more people and create more jobs.”
Infection Protection Products has been in operation for 33 years and has significant experience and expertise in the hygiene market. The company supplies its high-quality detergent disinfectant and sanitising products primarily to retailers, manufacturing facilities, factories, schools, clinics and hospitals.
The company is best known for its Sani-touch range of products, including the Sani-touch Saniwipes trolley and hand sanitising wipes found at the entrance to retail stores.
Saniwipes were the first trolley and hand sanitising wipes available in South Africa and the colour was recently changed to green.