From waste plastic to polished school shoes

Dr Richard Friedland, CEO of Netcare, with a pair of shiny new school shoes made from recycled uncontaminated PVC drip bags, oxygen masks and associated tubing through the My Walk initiative. The shoes themselves are also fully recyclable.
Dr Richard Friedland, CEO of Netcare, with a pair of shiny new school shoes made from recycled uncontaminated PVC drip bags, oxygen masks and associated tubing through the My Walk initiative. The shoes themselves are also fully recyclable.
Image: Medicross Medical Centre

More than 25,000 pupils from around the country are set to receive a brand new pair of school shoes in 2020 — made completely of recycled health care waste products.

An innovative partnership between Netcare and Adcock Ingram Critical Care aptly named the My Walk initiative is turning used, uncontaminated PVC intravenous drip bags, oxygen masks and associated tubing into shiny new school shoes, made from 100% recycled material.

The school shoes themselves are also 100% recyclable, with the exception of the laces.

This month, 1,300 primary school pupils from Chivirikani Primary School in Katlehong, southeast of Johannesburg, received the first batch of brand new recyclable school shoes.

A prototype of the school shoes was tested at three schools in 2019, to get first-hand feedback from pupils on the design and comfort.

Netcare CEO Dr Richard Friedland said they found themselves with tons of high-quality PVC waste, as drip bags, oxygen masks and associated tubing which can only be used once in a medical context

“The My Walk partnership is an example of embracing a circular economy.

“It shows how a green solution can fulfil a material need for a business while simultaneously benefiting society — in this case by supporting education, job creation and enterprise development,” Friedland said.

The collected material is transported and delivered to the My Walk factory, where it is washed, granulated into smaller pieces, melted at high temperature, then mixed with additives to achieve a black colouring and extruded into pellets.

The pellets are then processed in shoemaking equipment to produce brand new, fully recycled, waterproof and shiny new school shoes within minutes.

Shoe laces are added and the shoes are packaged, ready for distribution to pupils in need.

Adcock Ingram Critical Care MD Colin Sheen said: “Our partnership with Netcare in the My Walk initiative demonstrates the meaningful and wider impact that an innovative approach to solving business challenges can have.

“With nine more Netcare hospitals soon joining the 12 hospitals which are already participating, we are excited about increasing the number of shoes manufactured significantly over the next few years.”

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