School benefits from recycling waste

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Mufakose High 2 students have demonstrated that there is a wealth of creativity, ingenuity and innovation in young people through a range of products they produced and exhibited at the Harare Agricultural Show held in August.

According to one of the students, Ropafadzo Muchena, recycling paper is no longer about removing waste from the streets, but it has become a national duty, assisting in preserving the environment.

Mufakose High 2 has avidly responded to Environmental Management Agency (EMA)’s call to protect the environment.

During the exhibition, they showcased “artificially made” paraffin, petroleum jelly, soft drinks and organic fertilizer. All the products were made from waste materials that other people would render useless.

What started as a dream in a science laboratory is fast turning out to be a reality, bearing tangible fruits.
“Give us plastics and we will give you paraffin,” said science teacher Agnes Marume.

“This has become part of our school. We collect plastics and sort them before they are cleaned. For most people, it usually takes the clogging of sewer reticulation systems by plastics for them to realise the importance of collecting and recycling them, yet this should not be the case.”

Marume said the need to teach students in a practical set-up since 2009 was now paying dividends, though they were still to reap financial benefits from the innovations.

“Just the feeling that we are contributing to the environment’s cause as well as teaching students practically is enough to motivate us as a school,” she said.

For Mufakose High 2, the greatest achievement to date is seen in the tonnes of fertilizers, cartons of petroleum jelly and litres of paraffin they have made from recycled waste material as well as managing to exhibit at this year’s edition of the Harare Agricultural Show — which has afforded them an opportunity to tell their story and what they can do for their country.

“We just use the burner to liquidate clean plastics in a distiller which evaporates where it is then cooled in a condenser so as to come up as paraffin, though it has some chlorides,” said Marume.

“This paraffin needs to have the chlorides removed as well as adding some ‘scent’ to give it the original paraffin aroma. This is no doubt killing three birds with one stone since we preserve the environment, preserve trees and the ozone layer, as our process does not generate smoke.”

Mufakose High 2 head Maud Kusotera said although the project is not yet commercialised, its contribution to the development of society was noble.

“Most of the virgin paper (un-recycled) and plastic types can be recycled. Virgin paper in Zimbabwe is from timber which usually comes from Eastern Highlands, but the forests are being overwhelmed and we have to import a lot of paper from other countries when we can use the available resources,” she said.

“This (importing) might be very expensive and it means we have less money to buy other products that we do not make in the country like medicines. So if we recycle paper we do not only conserve the environment, we save money.”

Plastics have been a cause of concern to the environment and according to the EMA, they constitute about 70% of waste found in waste dumps.

The school head said the response the school was getting was overwhelming as it had caught the attention of EMA.

EMA Environmental Education and publicity manager Steady Kangata said they recognised and appreciated the role the school and many other organisations involved in waste recycling were playing.

“We as EMA have noted with concern that these products clog our water and sewer reticulation systems, have been a cause of numerous blockages of drainage pipes and are an eyesore to the environment,” said Kangata.

“What Mufakose High 2 is doing might be a small project, but if several schools and organisations come up with such projects we are assured of an uninterrupted water supply and (no more) sewer bursts, as clogging of pipes will be reduced.

“In rural areas if plastics are ingested by animals they block the alimentary canal resulting in the death of animals, so collective efforts like what Mufakose High 2 are doing should be applauded,” he added.