Each year, South Africa celebrates National Disability Rights Awareness month between 3 November and 3 December.
As part of this year’s campaign, the Polystyrene Packaging Council (PSPC) is encouraging people to collect their breadtags, which can be used to “purchase” a wheelchair for people with mobility impairments who are financially unable to afford one.
Currently in its 8th year, the PSPC’s hugely successful “Breadtags for Wheelchairs” project has already touched hundreds of lives around the country and has also recently expanded internationally to Japan and Australia.
According to PSPC Director, Adri Spangenberg, they have close to 1 000 coordinators around the country who assist with the breadtag collection.
“The network of volunteers is made up of teachers, learners, churches and individuals who all diligently collect breadtags in order to make a big difference in the lives of the less fortunate,” Adri says.
Each year, close to 300 wheelchairs are handed over thanks to the collection of the breadtags which are made of high impact polystyrene (HIPS). These closures have a high recycling value, and are recycled into seedling trays, cornices, skirtings, outdoor furniture, coat hangers, poles and decking.
“We have established a network of buyers around the country who have agreed to pay R6.00 for each kilogram of breadtags that are collected. Once enough tags have been collected to cover the cost of the wheelchair selected, this money is then paid over to the pharmacy or wheelchair supplier of their choice,” Adri explains.
Because it is important to ensure that the correct wheelchair is purchased when seating quadriplegics, the QuadPara Association of South Africa (QASA) assists with assessing the requirements of the wheelchair recipient by making sure they get the right chair for their needs. Similarly, specialist wheelchair supplier CE Mobility, services the wheelchairs to ensure they stay in a good condition. They have also committed themselves to donate one wheelchair to a needy recipient for every wheelchair bought through them using the breadtags.
“Apart from the knowledge that we are addressing a big need in our communities, we also don’t want to see these breadtags end up in our country’s landfills as they have a good recycling market value. Factories manufacturing polystyrene and other plastics consume less energy and natural resources when they used recycled products, resulting in a cleaner, greener and healthier environment. It is important for us to raise awareness that Polystyrene is successfully being recycled in South Africa and to create new markets for this recycled product, while at the same time changing somebody’s life with one small act of kindness”.