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Case Studies

On the Road to Sustainability

South Africa’s plan to clean up the country and provide economic opportunity for thousands runs on Oracle technology.

by Tara Swords

February 2016

Many countries have already taken steps to deal with emissions from the millions of cars, trucks, and buses that fill their roadways. But what about the four tires those vehicles roll around on? When those tires reach the end of their usefulness, where do they go?

Snapshot

REDISA

    Location: Cape Town, South Africa

    Industry: Professional services

    Employees: 120

    Oracle products and services: Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition; Oracle Business Process Management; Oracle Content Manager; Oracle Database, Enterprise Edition; Oracle Database Vault; Oracle E-Business Suite; Oracle Financials; Oracle Procurement; Oracle Human Resources; Oracle Payroll; Oracle Taleo Recruiting Cloud Service; Oracle Transportation Management; Oracle Spatial and Graph; Oracle SOA Suite for Oracle Middleware; Oracle Identity and Access Management; Oracle Weblogic Suite; Oracle VM; Oracle Database Appliance; Oracle SuperCluster

Ian Beaton

    Chief Information Officer

    Length of tenure: Three years

    Education: Bachelor of Commerce, University of Witwatersrand

    Personal quote or mantra: “If you ask the right question, you will get to the right place. It is not always what someone wants but rather what they need that is important.”

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In South Africa, people historically dumped them in landfills. Sometimes they burned old tires for heat or to extract the small amount of steel housed inside, which could then be sold for cash. This uncontrolled burning released toxic fumes and liquids into the atmosphere and ground, compounding the environmental problem that cars pose. The estimated 60 million tires that haven’t been burned are still sitting in unsafe, illegal stockpiles or open fields, creating fire hazards and breeding grounds for mosquitoes that carry disease. And every year in South Africa, 11 million more tires join the heap.

REDISA

Launch the Slideshow

In 2009, the South African Parliament passed the National Environmental Management Waste Act, which required waste generators and disposers to minimize the environmental impact of any waste they hold or create. That’s when a group of thought leaders had an epiphany: With a bit of innovation, they could tackle the tire problem and begin to address the country’s 26.4 percent unemployment rate at the same time. They developed the Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of South Africa (REDISA).

REDISA is a nongovernmental organization based on a unique plan to turn South Africa’s tire problem into an environmental and economic success story. It comprises a national network of collectors, storage depots, recyclers, and producers in secondary industries—all small businesses and individuals—funded by a simple waste management fee on each tire produced in, or imported into, the country. That fee is ultimately passed on to consumers by manufacturers, so a small contribution from each consumer pays for the system. The levy is designated only for the use outlined in the REDISA plan, and it’s spent in an auditable, accountable way. Plus, the government doesn’t have to find a new revenue stream to support recycling or put more people to work.

“Our plan was to create jobs,” says Ian Beaton, who developed REDISA’s IT infrastructure and serves as its CIO—and is also the CIO at Kusaga Taka, the consulting company that implements the REDISA plan. “By getting people involved in the economy and giving them the opportunity to run a business, you help them put food on the table for their families. So this project has a massive social impact.”

The REDISA plan received government approval in November 2012, and Beaton and his team immediately began putting the plan into action. That meant not only building a national network of transporters and tire depots, but also building an IT infrastructure from scratch. For that task, Beaton decided to deploy a technology stack built entirely on Oracle solutions, from hardware to virtual machines, database, middleware, and applications.

From the Ground Up

Building an entire infrastructure from scratch—and in just 180 days—might sound like a daunting task. But in this case, the ability to start from scratch was an opportunity: no clunky legacy systems or processes to integrate with. Beaton had worked with Oracle technology for 15 years as a consultant with KPMG and Accenture, and he knew Oracle offered everything REDISA needed to run its supply chain, transportation network, and financial systems.

Hermann Erdmann, REDISA’s CEO, agreed with the single-vendor approach. “We are a startup with no legacy systems to worry about, so the Oracle stack concept of database, middleware, and applications made perfect sense for us,” Erdmann says. “After we got government approval of our plan, we had to deploy a first-of-its-kind waste management plan across the entire country as quickly as possible. Oracle made that possible.”

Scalability was another draw. By deploying a service-oriented architecture based on Oracle technology, Beaton could ensure that every bit of code his team wrote would be reusable. That was particularly important when they considered the future of REDISA. While the organization will always have employees, some of the work—like that of the 980 microcollectors who pull tires from landfills—will eventually disappear as those areas are cleaned of tires.

“When REDISA was conceived, we knew we wanted to be able to scale up and possibly do similar things in other geographies and with other waste streams,” Beaton says. “We wanted to choose a technology that would be able to scale, and that’s why we ended up with Oracle.”

In July 2013, Beaton and his team engaged iFactory, an Oracle implementation partner, and got to work.

Tires Get New Life

The REDISA process starts with the collection of a small waste management fee on every kilogram of new tire produced in or imported into the country. Producers and importers register and pay their fees via the REDISA website. This fee is set as a revenue stream in Oracle Financials.

When vehicle owners are ready to get rid of their tires, they leave them at collection points around the country, such as tire sellers, car dealerships, and mechanics’ garages. Someone at the collection points notifies REDISA that tires are ready for pickup, and the REDISA system—which captures all of this information in Oracle Database—then schedules the collection with an appropriately contracted transporter. Transporters then pick up the tires and take them to regional depots for temporary storage. Oracle Transportation Management handles the scheduling, contracting, and billing components. Payment is handled through Oracle Accounts Payable, creating an auditable record and ensuring that no cash needs to change hands.

Next, depot managers receive loads and check them in.

“Once the transporter delivers the load to the depot, I input the information into the system via a tablet,” says Stanley Mangoegape, manager of the Midrand depot, which is near Johannesburg. “I log the name of the transporter, how many tires were delivered, the system records date, and the time. The system we use keeps track of all of the data and the payments made, which makes our work easier.”

All of this data collection happens on a simple front end that runs in Oracle WebCenter Portal and hides the complexity of the underlying back-end processes. Depot managers then stack and store the tires according to health and safety protocols until a REDISA-registered processing plant is ready for a batch. As part of the plan, processing plants receive tires free of charge, which helps to ensure that recycling remains a sustainable business. The Oracle system then schedules transporters, who pick up tires from the depots and take them to various processing facilities where—depending on the facility—the tires are either consumed in a form of energy recovery (tire-derived fuel) or crumbed and turned into new products and materials.

What the tires become depends on where they go. One type of processing plant is a cement kiln, which recovers energy from the tire to fuel the cement-making process. Cement kilns are often coal-fired, so in this process, tires can replace up to 20 percent of coal usage. While emissions from tires are not nearly as bad for the environment as emissions from coal when burned in retrofitted kilns, this process isn’t a long-term solution—so REDISA is working to reduce its dependence on kilns.

By getting people involved in the economy and giving them the opportunity to run a business, you help them put food on the table for their families. So this project has a massive social impact.”–Ian Beaton, CIO, REDISA

Another type of processing plant involves pyrolysis, a process in which the tire is heated in a chamber and reduced to steel, low-grade bunker fuel that is turned into diesel fuel, and carbon char. Unfortunately, the carbon char currently has very little value—which means this process has created another waste problem to solve.

The third type of processing plant—and the type that REDISA prefers—turns tires into rubber crumb. A machine devulcanizes the tire, creating small granules of raw rubber that can be used in many products: paving bricks, children’s playground surfaces, roof tiles, shoes, and rubberized asphalt for paving roads. One of REDISA’s goals is to push for the creation of more rubber crumb plants that turn tires into a product of real value.

Beaton and his team used the architecture designer within Oracle Business Process Management Suite to create a system that earned them a 2014 Oracle Sustainability Innovation Award. It is simple in the eyes of front-end users and simple for IT personnel to maintain—for example, they deployed Oracle software out of the box with no customizations. But that simplicity belies the impressiveness of what they created.

“If you talk to the technical people about what is going on, it’s mind-blowing,” Beaton says. “Understandably it will take time for everyone within the REDISA business network to fully understand how the technology has been hooked together to make such an impact, but most important, the business is allowed to continue in the successful development of a new industry and create thousands of jobs—which is the way it should be.”

Erdmann says the underlying technology enables REDISA to work with very different types of users.

“We have to deal with highly sophisticated tire manufacturers who have highly sophisticated IT systems, and on the other side we work with waste pickers, some of whom can’t read or write,” Erdmann says. “Oracle allows us to work with both seamlessly.”

REDISA Changes Lives

Since launching in 2013, REDISA has made enormous progress. The organization has created 3,023 jobs and is supporting 225 small-to-midsize businesses including depots, recyclers, and companies that make products from the recycled tires. Collectors pick up tires from 1,385 dealers, and REDISA is already directly responsible for diverting more than 146,000 tons of tires from landfills.

REDISA
Amount of waste tire REDISA has kept out of landfills
146,000 tons
Amount of waste tire REDISA has kept out of landfills
3,023
Number of small-to-midsize businesses the REDISA plan supports
225

Some of these numbers come from Oracle Spatial and Graph, which REDISA leaders use to demonstrate the value of their work by region. They can use the application to visualize, for example, how much tire waste has been recycled in a specific area, and how much money has been invested in the respective community.

The impact on South Africa as a whole is undeniable, but the way REDISA has changed individual lives is equally important. Some of the collectors and transporters have received bank cards for the first time in their lives through their work for REDISA, which has enabled them to care for their families in ways they were not able to before.

“Working with REDISA has changed my circumstances and given me a new lease on life,” Mangoegape says. “They gave me an opportunity when no one else would, and I am now able to provide for my family. I have also learned a lot about waste, and my view on waste has changed.”

Beaton estimates that 240,000 tons of tires come into the country each year. Some disappear—people use them as bumpers on boat docks or for erosion prevention on farms, for example. That leaves about 175,000 tons of tires that will ultimately become scrap, and REDISA currently collects 120,000 tons of those each year. Under the plan, REDISA will grow to collect all 175,000 tons within the next two years—all without funding from the South African government. The challenge is now to aid in and encourage the creation of more rubber crumb processing plants.

After that, REDISA has the scalability to move into other waste streams and geographies.

“The opportunity is there to do this in other places,” Beaton says. “As the landfills are cleaned of tires, some of the work will disappear—but with another waste stream like plastics, this becomes a sustainable employment creation opportunity well into the future.”

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  • Photography by Shutterstock