SA recycling rates applauded

The South African National Bottled Water Association (SANBWA) has applauded the response of ordinary South Africans to plastics recycling initiatives as the country’s recycling rate trounces that currently achieved in Europe.

Plastics|SA released plastics recycling figures for 2017 earlier this week (July 24), For the seventh year running, these show that plastics recycling in South Africa has continued to grow, with more than 334 727 tons recycled back into the raw material. This gives South Africa an input recycling rate of 43.7% – well above that of Europe’s recycling rate that currently sits at 31.1%.

“South Africans who do their share to recycle plastic (and other materials) on a daily basis are to be congratulated on their latest efforts,” said SANBWA Executive Director, Charlotte Metcalf.

“Earlier in the year (May), PETCO, which is responsible for fulfilling the sector’s mandate of extended producer responsibility, announced that the South African PET industry recycled a record 2.15 billion PET plastic bottles in 2017, setting a post-consumer recycling rate of 65% to put the country on par with international standards.

“The 93 235 tonnes of collected PET exceeded the industry target of 58% for the year 2017 and created 64 000 income-generating opportunities for waste pickers, collectors and recyclers, saving 578 000m3 of landfill space and 139 000 tonnes of carbon in the process.

“Plastics|SA’s figures continue the good news story, and their achievement – and that of all the organisations it works with – are to be applauded.”

Metcalf added that the executive summary compiled by Plastics|SA each year to provide interested parties with an overview of the sector and its activities is extremely detailed and makes for worthwhile reading. (http://www.plasticsinfo.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Executive-summary.pdf)

There are differences between South Africa and Europe which have a material impact on their respective recycling initiatives, and these are forming Plastics|SA’s strategies going forward. For example, the South African recycling industry is based on economic principles whereas, in Europe, recycling is an environmental principle subscribed to by most citizens and local councils. In South Africa it needs to make money; in Europe, it is the right thing to do.

Also, in the European community, local government and the plastics industry are all involved in getting the recyclables out of the waste stream as early as possible, whereas in South Africa we only have formal waste management for 64% of all households. The largest quantity of recyclables in our country, 74%, was obtained from the landfill and other post-consumer sources. Landfill material is of poor quality, contaminated and therefore expensive to recycle.

Importantly, recycling is helping create jobs – even if most are informal. The executive summary reports that plastics recycling sustained 5837 formal jobs in 2017 in the recycling factories. Increased tonnages per employee were achieved and reached 53.8 tons – 7% more than in 2016. It is estimated, however, that 52 300 workers received an income through the supply chain. PETCO estimates that PET recycling creates 64 000 income-generating opportunities.

Metcalf also drew attention to Plastics|SA Executive Director, Anton Hanekom’s, warning: “While the recycling rates of plastics tell an impressive story, local recyclers often faced an uphill battle when it came to selling their material. For the second year in a row, the recyclers had more recyclate than was required by their immediate and existing customers.  This makes it hard for them to survive and continue their operations, as they are unable to sell their stock. For this reason, developing suitable end-markets has become critical for the sustainability of the plastics recycling industry”.


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