Celebrating Professor Francesca Porri as Our NRF-SAIAB Recycling Hero on Global Recycling Day

Celebrating Professor Francesca Porri as Our NRF-SAIAB Recycling Hero on Global Recycling Day

By Siyanda Mzini (DSI-HSRC/NRF-SAIAB Intern)

As the world celebrates Global Recycling Day on the 18th of March 2024, under the theme ‘Recycling Heroes’, we focus our attention to NRF-SAIAB Senior Scientist and Environmental Ambassador, Professor Francesca Porri, whose commitment and passion as an environmental steward earns her the need for recognition. Her journey into the world of recycling started off during her time as a biology student in Italy, and was driven by her commitment for environmental advocacy and protection of aquatic ecosystems. Francesca’s dedication to recycling stems from her recognition of the impact of waste on both the environment and human health. She believes if waste is not recycled or managed it could result in pollution. “The single-use plastics, if not properly managed, fill up the landfill sites and find their way into oceans, posing a threat to marine life and might end up in our digestive systems as micro-plastics” she explained. She further elaborated that improper waste disposal methods, such as burning, release harmful chemicals into the environment, exacerbating environmental degradation and causing health concerns.

NRF-SAIAB Senior Scientist and Environmental Ambassador

Francesca introduced her family to recycling, a principle she continues to pass on to others and incorporate into her research journey at NRF-SAIAB. One of her significant milestones in this journey was persuading her elderly and retired father to adopt recycling, a feat she accomplished through perseverance and commitment to her beliefs. Reflecting on her experience, she shared, ” As recycling initiatives were taking off in Italy, I felt compelled to introduce recycling to my family. Despite initial resistance from my father, I persisted, and eventually, he not only embraced recycling but also integrated waste separation into his daily routine, becoming an environmental champion within our household”. This experience solidified Francesca’s belief in the power of influence, particularly among the younger generation. She firmly believes that if she can influence the mindset of an elder, then the potential to inspire change among young individuals is certainly possible.

Whether at home or at work, Francesca incorporates recycling and inspires her colleagues to integrate environmentally responsible practises in their daily routines. At home, Francesca tries to avoid purchasing items packaged with plastic and repurposes plastic bottles and tubs. In her office, she separates paper, plastic and glass from general waste, she encourages her students to bring re-filled water and reduces her carbon footprint by attending only two international conferences per year. Apart from her individual efforts, she promotes sustainable practises through engaging with colleagues in the NRF-SAIAB Safety, Health and Environmental (SHE) committee and tries to inspire young individuals to lead environmentally friendly lives. 

Francesca’s method of waste separation in her office

In the next few years, Francesca aspires for NRF-SAIAB to not only excel in impactful research, but for daily operations within the Institute to encompass sustainable practices. This involves commitment to reducing the amount of waste generated, increasing recycling and reducing carbon footprint. Francesca commented, “I am happy with the progress made in introducing environmental programmes and witnessing the younger generation taking charge in environmental awareness and other programmes that include recycling, but I still believe a lot could be done by each department to reduce our carbon footprint”.

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