The virtuous circle - food security, packaging & sustainable development
Home All News PRESS RELEASE – 27 July 2017
PRESS RELEASE – 27 July 2017


Delivery of latest round of school desks made from recycled packaging waste closes loop on “Virtuous Circle” circular economy project.

27 July 2017, South Africa: Closing the loop on the unique Virtuous Circle project, more than 500 additional double school desks made from recycled plastics will be delivered to primary schools in South Africa over the course of the final school term of the year. In a breakthrough in recycling technology made possible by this multi-stakeholder circular economy partnership, the final batch of these desks will be made entirely from recycled waste from multimaterial household packaging waste.

“The Virtuous Circle” has brought together business and civil society organisations from Europe and South Africa to develop new circular economy solutions for multilayer waste, while educating children on the importance of nutrition, food waste prevention and sustainability at the same time.

“Innovative partnerships that look at different angles of the same overall challenge are key to driving forward the circular economy” according to Tom McLaughlin, Responsible Sourcing at Woolworths Foods, one of the lead sponsors of the school desks along with Amcor, DuPont and FUTURELIFE®.

Preventing food waste and packaging waste at the same time

At the heart of the Virtuous Circle are the schools that have taken part in the project. Since October 2016, more than 650’000 of FUTURELIFE® Smart food™ meals have been distributed to schools across South Africa in innovative dual compartment multilayer pouches designed to optimise the transport, storage, preparation, and consumption of nutritious children’s meals.

While the pouches are highly effective in terms of food waste prevention, the multimaterial multilayer packaging involved has traditionally been considered difficult, if not impossible, to recycle. One of the core aims of the Virtuous Circle has been to challenge this assumption and test innovative methods of creating new products of genuine value from the recycled multilayer packaging waste.

Andrew Venter, CEO of the non-profit environmental organization – and key driver of the project – Wildlands, summarises this objective in a few words, In the short term, the reality is that multimaterial multilayer packaging is necessary for its role in food life extension. As such, we need to find immediate solutions that allow for the associated post-consumer waste to be collected and processed. This is a real challenge as this material is currently not recycled. If solutions such as the Green Desk based upcycling of this waste are not adopted, then we will continue to see this post-consumer film waste polluting our rivers and oceans, until alternative recyclable packaging solutions are found.”

From classroom to classroom – the circular economy in action

The school children have played a key role in translating this ambition into action and creating a circular economy solution with a difference. Once they had eaten their FUTURELIFE® Smart food™ meals, they helped collect the pouches and other difficult to recycle multilayer waste in their surroundings.  The packaging was then collected by project partner Wildlands, who bulked it and then sent it off together with their other relevant post-consumer waste streams, including multimaterial multilayer waste to another project partner, RWPA Solutions. RWPA Solutions converted the Wildlands sourced post-consumer waste into a usable recyclate raw material, which was then extruded into plastic planking and assembled into Wildlands Green Desks.

The end product meets a genuine need, as according to the Tutu Foundation, the desk shortage estimate is around 3 million in South Africa and 90 million across Africa[1]. And importantly, by creating something with a direct impact on their everyday lives, children and teachers are able to experience first-hand the importance of sustainable waste management and the potential of the circular economy.

According to Katy Newham of Virtuous Circle partner Wastebuster, “Schools are a crucial platform for promoting understanding of these issues among young people, and to help transfer this knowledge back to their homes and communities. If informed, inspired and empowered to deal with waste properly today, they can help secure a more sustainable future tomorrow.”

Promoting education for sustainable development, was one of the core objectives of the Virtuous Circle from the outset. Wastebuster specialises in engaging multimedia campaigns to promote care for the environment among school children in the UK and was happy to bring this expertise to South Africa as part of the Virtuous Circle project. Amongst other educational tools, a special song was released to bring the recycling message to life. The song was written by well-known South African singer Tresor. Tresor had a helping hand performing the song from Wastebuster’ main puppet character, an “intergalactic space monkey” called Captain Busta and a Bheji a rhino created especially for this project.  Leading South African production company, Moonlightings Production, also helped to capture the song and other aspects of the project in a series of educational videos (see

100% multilayer – Breakthrough in recycling technology

The final batch of desks that will be delivered during the upcoming school term marks an important development in recycling options for food packaging. RWPA and Wildlands had already managed to create school desks by combining multimaterial packaging with other recycled waste. The initial round of desks already delivered to schools as part of the Virtuous Circle project contained a combination of recycled multimaterial multilayer films, recycled FUTURELIFE® Smart food™ pouches and recycled High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) waste. The challenge was to find a way to produce desks – and other value adding products – using 100% multimaterial waste.

The introduction of innovative additives known as compatibilisers as part of the project has had a crucial impact on the recycling process. Using compatibilisers it is now possible to produce a 100% multilayer recyclate raw material that can be used to develop not only desks and but also products serving larger market segments, such as construction materials. This creates a whole new range of outlets for multilayer packaging in a circular economy.

“Working with DuPont, we were able to recycle different types of multilayer films together. What makes it special, is the technology that overcomes the time-consuming sorting of the multilayer waste by component. In the past, this represented a significant barrier to cost-effective and efficient recycling.  By recycling all multilayers together, we are changing the face of recycling in this area,” says Iqbal Hirji, Founder of RWPA.

As the initial Virtuous Circle pilot comes to close, partners on the ground in South Africa are currently identifying local sponsors to support the continuation of the school feeding and education programmes.

Project partners are also now looking into ways to take forward key learnings from the project and rolling them out in other locations, new sectors (e.g. transport and construction) and other areas of activity, such as humanitarian aid.



Notes to the editor:

About the project

The project was coordinated by DuPont in close collaboration with FUTURELIFE®, EqualTrade4, Amcor, Wildlands, RWPA and Wastebuster among others. Inspirational singer songwriter Tresor is the ambassador for the project.

The three pillars of the Virtuous Circle project were:

  • feeding undernourished school children in disadvantaged areas thanks to innovative packaging solutions (the “feeding pillar”)
  • upcycling the waste packaging into school materials (the “recycling pillar”), and
  • educating the students about the importance of sustainability and equipping local partners with the tools to maintain a true circular economy approach to nutrition (the “education pillar”)

For additional information please contact:

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More detailed information can be found in the project report

Amcor Limited (ASX: AMC; is a global leader in responsible packaging solutions, focusing on a broad range of flexible and rigid plastic packaging that enhances the products consumers use in everyday life, with 95 percent of its sales into the food, beverage, healthcare and tobacco industries.  The company employs more than 31,000 people worldwide, operating in 40-plus countries and across more than 190 sites.

DuPont (NYSE: DD) has been bringing world-class science and engineering to the global marketplace in the form of innovative products, materials, and services since 1802. The company believes that by collaborating with customers, governments, NGOs, and thought leaders we can help find solutions to such global challenges as providing enough healthy food for people everywhere, decreasing dependence on fossil fuels, and protecting life and the environment. For additional information about DuPont and its commitment to inclusive innovation, please visit

DuPont Performance Materials (DPM) DuPont Performance Materials (DPM) is a leading innovator of thermoplastics, elastomers, renewably-sourced polymers, high-performance parts and shapes, as well as resins that act as adhesives, sealants, and modifiers. DPM supports a globally linked network of regional application development experts who work with customers throughout the value chain to develop innovative solutions in automotive, packaging, construction, consumer goods, electrical/electronics and other industries.  For additional information about DuPont Performance Materials, visit

Equaltrade 4 (Pty) Limited is a supply chain management company founded in 1995 and deals with the supply and logistics of food and related products to the mining industries in Sub Saharan Africa. Situated in the mining towns of Rustenburg and Carletonville in South Africa the company is well placed to service these industries. The twin pouch concept was developed as a mid-shift meal supplement for this industry but its application has broadened to the support of communities in distress. The unique middle seal allows for the nutritional powder and purified water to remain separate increasing the shelf life of the product to 6 months – by squeezing the pouch the seal is broken allowing for powder and water to combine into a nutritious meal.

FUTURELIFE® is a functional food company with a mission to improve the health and wellbeing of everyone by helping them to make the right nutritional choices in their daily lives. FUTURELIFE® is South Africa’s first and only scientifically formulated, balanced, nutrient dense food to contain Moducare®. Most FUTURELIFE® products are also high in Energy, Protein and Dietary Fibre, and contain Calcium, Iron, Selenium, Zinc, essential vitamins and minerals, 19 Amino Acids and Omega 3+6.

The FUTURELIFE® Foundation Trust was established as a nonprofit to enhance broad-based community development, particularly for the benefit of children at non fee-paying schools, vulnerable groups in society, and to support projects that promote sustainable livelihoods in areas where such non-fee-paying schools exist.

RWPA Solutions (Pty) Ltd, an advisory consultancy and manufacturer founded in 2012, has devoted its efforts to poverty alleviation in South Africa through initiatives in the recycling, clean energy and affordable housing environments. RWPA is set up to develop: sustainable solutions for difficult to recycle rural and household multilayer and commingled plastic film waste; alternative cooking, heating and lighting solutions to reduce hazardous indoor smoke pollution specifically within informal settlements; and innovative, green and low-cost housing solutions. RWPA works in conjunction with local and international conservation and development organisations towards achieving these unique solutions.

Wildlands is a charitable Non-Profit and one of South Africa’s leading environmental organization (, working to improve the livelihood of South Africa’s poorest communities and restoring the ecosystems that support them.  The current project footprint includes over 80 poor urban and rural communities in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and Gauteng. Wildlands’ work is focused around 7 core programmes, which contribute significantly to our growing footprint; Trees for Life, Greening your Future, Recycling for Life, Clothes for Life, Ubuntu Earth, Khuthaza Business and Conservation SPACE.

Wastebuster is a not for profit Community Interest Company (CIC) that delivers a school’s education programme designed to foster positive values, attitudes and behaviours that prevent waste and encourage children to carry the messages from curriculum, to campus and into the community. Wastebuster specialise in environmental education, waste reduction and recycling campaigns and initiatives that engage, inform, and empower children to play a direct and active role in shaping their own future. Wastebuster also develop teacher and volunteer training programs to show how changes in the way we learn, live, play, work, and travel can help us live happy and healthy lives – within the resources available to us. Almost all Wastebuster’s work involves partnerships and collaborations. We team up with not-for-profit agencies, NGOs and charities and form relationships with local councils, regional government offices and waste and utility companies. We also work with businesses that would like to activate positive change as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility commitment:

Woolworths Holdings Limited (WHL) is a southern hemisphere retail Group that has been listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange Limited (JSE) since 1997. It is one of the top 40 JSE-listed companies and had a market capitalisation of R100.5 billion at 26 June 2016. Approximately 45% of revenue is derived from Australasian operations. WHL now employs more than 43 000 employees across 14 countries and trades in almost 1 400 store locations.

The Group trades through three operating subsidiaries, which includes Woolworths Proprietary Limited (Woolworths and WSA), Country Road Group Proprietary Limited (Country Road Group and CRG) and David Jones Pty Limited (David Jones and DJ), acquired as of 1 August 2014 and formerly listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX). Woolworths Financial Services Proprietary Limited (WFS) is a joint venture with Barclays Africa Group, which holds the controlling interest.

Our footprint extends beyond our stores into our supply chain, the communities in which we operate and the communities that buy our products and use our services. We manage our broader business impact through comprehensive social, ethical and environmental policies and practices as part of our Good Business Journey.