Bottlers Join Forces to Protect Environment

By GELILA SAMUEL (FORTUNE STAFF WRITER)

Beverage and water bottling companies have formed an association that will be tasked with environmental rehabilitation and recycling products discharged from the industry. Dubbed the Green Economy & Plastic Collection Development, the Association has 20 founding members and received accreditation from the Agency of Civil Society Organizations in mid-July. The consortium of water, soft drink and juice bottlers was established to rehabilitate the natural resources used for production.

Bottlers of Daily, Fam, Cheers, Africa and Aqua Addis waters, as well as Moringa Soft Drink, are among the founding members. The Association is currently recruiting members from different companies such as plastic bag producers and recyclers as well as brewers. Kemal Bejiga, CEO of Fam Water, a three-year-old bottler with 300 employees and a daily manufacturing capacity of 2,000 bottles, chairs the newly formed Association, which plans to plant trees and support the green legacy development. This year the Association along with non-members has planted over 2,000 trees at the Addis Abeba City Industrial Zone located around ICT Park, according to Getnet Belay, secretary-general of the new Association and president of the Ethiopian Bottled Water, Soft Drink, Fruit & Vegetable Manufacturing Industry Association.

The Association also plans to indulge in rehabilitating the resources that are used to make different products, work on recycling, advocate on environmental policy, and improve awareness of the need for environmental protection. "Resources aren't going to last forever," Getnet said. "There is a need to give back to the natural world and ensure a long-lasting flow of the resources." The Association also plans to have plastic bottle collectors to establish a chain of disposal and transform these bottles into different products. "We need to work on recycling plastic bottles and changing them into another product such as new plastic bottles, containers or even clothes," said Getnet.

The Ethiopian Bottled Water, Soft Drink, Fruit & Vegetable Manufacturing Industry Association was established in February 2019 mainly to work with the government and give voice to sector challenges. The reason for establishing a new association is to focus on green development and the responsibility of the producers to the natural resources they use, according to Ashenafi Merid, general manager of the Ethiopian Bottled Water, Soft Drink, Fruit & Vegetable Manufacturing Industry Association.

The new Association, which has not yet secured an office, is currently sharing an office with the older Association. "We're facing a budget problem, especially in recruiting members to contribute their share to this initiative," said Gebeyaw Chekol, general manager of the new Association. "The plans of this Association will go a long way as long as producers take part in this work." There was a need to contribute our fair share to social responsibility and rehabilitate the natural resources the company’s mine, according to Elias Haile, deputy-general manager of the factory of Zebyem Trading Plc, a three-year-old producer of Moringa Soft Drink, which makes 3,000 bottles a day with 150 employees and recently started exporting to Somaliland.
"We're also a member of the advisory board of the new Association," Elias said.

Landfill area is limited, and the situation at landfills makes it almost impossible for any disposal, including for plastic to biodegrade, according to Mekuria Argaw (PhD), associate professor at Addis Abeba University's School of Natural Sciences.

"Recycling plastic water bottles and converting them into another product helps to save space that can be used for other waste," said the expert.
In addition, recycling plastic water bottles helps to protect natural resources, specifically oil, a non-renewable natural resource, according to Mekuria.
"It should be in the best interest of bottlers to partake in this initiative and collectively work together to administer effective damage control," said the expert.