Business & Industry Encouraging figures for recycling of SA’s plastic bottles

Encouraging figures for recycling of SA’s plastic bottles

62% of all PET plastic beverage bottles produced in the country in 2019 were collected for recycling.

New statistics show that 62% of all PET plastic beverage bottles produced in the country in 2019 were collected for recycling. 

The annual figures were released by the PET Recycling Company (PETCO), the sector’s producer responsibility organisation. PET stands for polyethylene terephthalate.

The 62% figure adds up to a whopping 95,879 tonnes of post-consumer PET bottles – and had these not been collected, they would have taken up 594,448 cubic metres of landfill space and produced 144,000 tonnes of carbon emissions.

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Posted by PETCO, the South African PET Plastic Recycling Company on Sunday, 28 June 2020

South Africa’s plastic recycling value chain also creates thousands of jobs for informal reclaimers who were finally able to return to work under level 3 of the national lockdown.

Besides the environmental benefits, PET recycling generated 65,900 income-earning opportunities among informal reclaimers and SMMEs in South Africa in 2019, with R1.1bn injected into the downstream economy through the manufacturing, distribution and sale of products made from recycled PET (rPET).

PETCO CEO Cheri Scholtz says while the overall 2% year-on-year decrease in volume was disappointing, it was as good as could be expected considering the significant loss of capacity following the shutting down of one of South Africa’s six PET recyclers. 

“The closure of Mpact Polymers had a significant impact on our capacity to recycle, with the remaining recyclers unable to pick up the slack as they were already operating at maximum capacity in the fourth quarter,” Scholtz says.

On a positive note,  she says the weight of rPET sold – more than 23,904 tonnes – was similar to 2018, reflecting both the improving output at the remaining recyclers and the increasing demand for rPET.

“This shows that consumers and brand owners are starting to take their product packaging’s green credentials seriously,” she says.

R372m was paid in 2019 by recyclers for baled bottles delivered to their plants. Of these, 57% was recycled into polyester staple fibre (PSF), 36% was used for food-grade rPET and the rest went into end-use applications like geotextiles and industrial strapping.

Scholtz is mindful of the impact Covid-19 will on the industry going forward.

This #WorldOceansDay, please remember that plastic bottles are not trash. If they are irresponsibly discarded, they…

Posted by PETCO, the South African PET Plastic Recycling Company on Sunday, 7 June 2020

“While there has been an increased demand for PET in the packaging of hygiene products such as sanitisers, and personal protective equipment such as face shields, the demand for clothing and household textiles has plummeted, putting pressure on PSF production.”

She says the country’s only bottle-to-bottle recycling plant, Extrupet, was able to operate as an essential service under lockdown, which has helped to keep the value chain moving.

“Our recyclers continue to buy post-consumer PET plastic bottles, albeit at reduced volumes, which is another positive for our industry, as many other material recovery processes haven’t been able to operate.”

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