In pursuit of an ozone friendly Nation

Bawinile Mkhonta received supervisory specialized training from the Palfridge Project.

Four years ago, Swaziland set a target to eliminate the emission of greenhouse gases by 2030. A major contributor was found to be the manufacturing industry, which accounts for 42 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The main industrial area, Matsapha, hosts several manufacturing companies. These include a leading, fridge-manufacturer, Palfridge, which annually consumed more than 70 percent of the hydro-chlorofluorocarbons (HCFC) in the country – emitting harmful gases in the process.

Since 2001, Palfridge manufactured its Kelvinator and Coolmaster branded domestic and commercial products using fluorinated refrigerants, which were harmful to the environment and contributing to global warming. As a result, the Matsapha-based company consumed more than 70 percent of the hydro-chlorofluorocarbons (HCFC) in the country on annual basis.

Highlights

  • The total number of refrigerators produced per day has almost doubled; from 400 to over 750
  • More women have been employed by Palfridge after the introduction of the project some facilitated to supervisory position through the training received.
  • This new conversion technology is HCFC free, has very low potential for global warming and no damaging effect on the ozone layer

Palfridge is the leader fridge-manufacturing company in Swaziland and the first in Southern Africa to use the cyclo-pentane conversion technology to reduce the emission of harmful gases and, thereby, contribute towards protecting the environment. 

Julius Shabangu, a 27-year-old Machine Operator at Palfridge who hails from Buhleni in the northern region of Swaziland is a breadwinner in his family. He is married and childless, but supports four nieces and his elderly parents on his monthly salary. “I was unemployed for almost five years before I got this job with Palfridge in 2013.

He says “I started in the assembly line, fixing breaks. But now, I am responsible for programming the machinery that mixes the chemicals to produce foam for the refrigerators. It is an important job and I love it”. Since taking up the new job, he has assisted with needs at home, has been able to finish constructing “a one-room spacious house” for himself at his parental homestead and pay for the school fees for his nieces.

The UNDP, through its partnership with the Swaziland Environmental Authority (SEA), provided Palfridge with financial and technical assistance for this project. UNDP support included purchasing the storage tanks and cabin machine and training about 20 technicians (including one woman) on the cyclo-pentane technology. The project seeks to ensure timely and sustainable phasing out of HCFC through the provision of equipment as stipulated in the Montreal Protocol and national regulations, thus facilitating the process towards minimizing ozone depleting substances in the atmosphere.

Other partners, besides UNDP, who have contributed to the technological innovations at Palfridge include, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in Nairobi, The German Federal Ministry of Environment (GTZ ProKlima) and the Multilateral Fund for the Montreal Protocol.

UNDP support included purchasing the storage tanks and cabin machine and training about 20 technicians (including one woman) on the cyclo-pentane technology. The project seeks to ensure timely and sustainable phasing out of HCFC through the provision of equipment as stipulated in the Montreal Protocol and national regulations, thus facilitating the process towards minimizing ozone depleting substances in the atmosphere.

The installation of the new machinery at Palfridge in 2013 has resulted in an increase in production. Production Manager, Eric Mthethwa says the total number of refrigerators produced per day has almost doubled; from 400 to over 750. “Unlike in the past when we had one shift in 24 hours, we now run two or more shifts in order to meet production demands,” he said.

The increase in productivity has had a multiplier-effect as it is also creating much-needed jobs. Prior to the purchase of the cyclo-pentane conversion equipment, Palfridge had 360 employees, excluding management. “This figure has now increased to more than 900, although many are employed on a temporary basis,” he explained.

Bawinile Mkhonta (41), a married mother of two, was the only women to receive specialised training from the project and is now a Supervisor at the packaging section of Palfridge. Currently, her job entails ensuring quality control of the packaging of the refrigerators, including checking on their quality readiness for export to markets, mainly in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Having joined the company at its establishment in 2001, she has witnessed many of the technological changes it has introduced over the years. More women have been employed by Palfridge after the introduction of the project some facilitated to supervisory position through the training received.