SANBWA Commitment

SANBWA and its members shall support post consumer PET recycling initiatives

SANBWA members shall:

  • Only support suppliers of PET bottles that contributes to the PETco recycling levy.
  • Establish a drop-off centre for the public at the bottling facility and all distribution centres.
  • Add the “please recycle” sign on all labels.
  • Use recycling friendly materials or recycling optimal materials as per the table below.

SANBWA shall:

  • Formed an informal association with PETco, cooperating in sharing of information
  • Facilitate easy recycling through requiring members to use recycle friendly materials
  • Educate the consumer on the bottled water industry’s efforts and regarding their own environmental responsibility


PETCO (Pty) Ltd is the South African plastic industry’s first joint effort to self-regulate post -consumer Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) recycling.

It was established in December 2004 to promote and improve the waste management and recycling of post-consumer PET products on behalf of all industry stakeholders.

The company is financed by a voluntary recycling levy paid by converters on resin purchased, as well as grant-in-aid paid to it by brand owners, retailers and the resin producers to fulfil their role of extended producer responsibility.

This gives rise to two broad categories of PETCO membership: companies that pay levies and grants, and have shareholding and voting rights are known as Shareholder Members while organisations which are not represented in the shareholding of PETCO but desire to become part of the PETCO family are termed Associate Members. To find out who the PETCO Shareholder members are, and see if any of your favourite brands are amongst the industry leaders go to You too can become a member, get access to market intelligence, receive updates and event notifications, attend workshops and be a part of the PETCO family, see for more information.

PETCO is headed by a board made up of representatives of the brand owners, the bottlers, resin manufacturers, retailers and converters; all are drawn from its shareholder membership base.

The company’s core business involves the distribution of funds to support recyclers, collectors, reclaimers, as well as initiating and facilitating a wide range of activities to sustain and grow PET collection. Both help create a constant supply and demand for post-consumer PET, especially during adverse economic cycles, and also enable increased tonnages and greater collection coverage.

The recycling levy collected by PETCO is used in support of two types of programmes, namely Category A and Category B Projects:

  • Category A Projects promote the economically viable collection and recycling of PET. Through these projects, PETCO supports those recyclers processing PET bottles to turn them into new end-use products like bottles or fibre.
  • Through its Category B Projects PETCO supports initiatives and activities that do not necessarily increase the collection volumes of recycled PET, but contribute to the visible recycling of PET. Here the objective is to support existing, and encourage new, post- consumer PET collection and recycling networks; to raise awareness and assist with consumer education for the recyclability of PET; and to create sustainable jobs and provide skills development.
  • PET recovery and recycling (pet recovery stations and separation at source) projects, information and communication projects (exhibitions and workshops, events, newsletters and recycling plant visits), clean up campaigns and litter awareness, education and training, entrepreneurial training, and joint venture projects with the PET industry partners all form part of the Category B work stream.

PETCO’s success over the seven years since its inception (2004 – 2012) is considerable:

  • PETCO has helped to establish over 430 plastic recovery stations throughout South Africa.
  • During the period, 26 000 income opportunities were created.
  • The industry has gone from 9 840 tonnes post-consumer PET bottles recycled to approximately 50 000 tonnes in 2012, or 328 million bottles to over 1.9 billion bottles.
  • The amount of PET resin produced has increased from 87 000 tonnes to 160 000 tonnes.
  • Beverage PET recycling targets have been increased from 16% to 44%

Given these achievements, PETCO’s recycling target for post consumer PET for 2015 of 50% seems certain to be met.

What is PET?

PET is a by-product of the oil refinement process; that is, it is not manufactured from virgin crude). It is the building block of the common polyester chain, hence the name poly(ethylene terephthalate)- ester.

The everyday name depends on whether it is being used as a fibre or as a material. When it is being used as a fibre to make clothes, it is often just called polyester and can also be known by a brand name like Terylene. When it is being used to make bottles, for example, it is called PET.

Like most bottles containing other beverages, plastic jars, containers, trays and clamshell packages bottled water bottles in South Africa are made from PET. Water bottle coolers commonly found in offices are made from a different kind of plastic.

PET is lightweight, unbreakable, and recyclable. Containers made from PET can be identified by a small number ‘1’ on the bottom of the container. This is often displayed inside a triangular mobius or a three-arrow recycling symbol. Alternatively, the letters ‘PET’ will be stamped into the bottle.

As a polymer manufactured from oil based raw material, PET is tough and resilient and 100% recyclable. The inert PET bottle is a well-accepted package all over the world and is completely safe to drink from:

  • There is no dioxin in PET plastic. Dioxin, a chlorine-containing chemical that has no role or presence in the chemistry of PET, is formed by volcanoes (!) and combustion in incinerators at temperatures above 1700 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Bisphenol A (BPA) is not used to make PET, nor is it used to make any of the component materials used to make PET.
  • DEHA is not present in PET either as a raw material or as a decomposition product. DEHA is also not classified as a human carcinogen and is not considered to pose any significant health risk to humans. It can be found in water – bottled or tap water – and is then called DOA. DOA is one of the organic containments commonly found at trace levels in just about all drinking water. It is also sometimes – wrongly – interpreted as di-ethyl hydroxyl amine which is not found in PET or in the production of PET bottles.
  • There are no substances known that can migrate from PET that could be responsible for the endocrine disruptors (substances having a hormonal effect) identified in a study commonly referred to as the ‘Goethe Study’.
  • The idea that PET bottles ‘leach’ chemicals when frozen or heated in hot cars is not based on any science, and is unsubstantiated by any credible evidence. It is therefore safe to freeze a PET bottle, or keep it in a hot car.
  • PET does contain antimony oxide, which is used as a catalyst. However, the amounts are well below the established safe limits for food and water set by the World Health Organisation. For example, a 60kg person would be able to tolerate an intake of 360ug but the guideline for drinking water is 15 – 20ug/l.

rPET in South Africa

PET recycling is unique in South Africa that almost all of the post-consumer PET bottles collected are recycled locally and not exported to China for processing, as is done by many other countries.

There are well-established markets for rPET (recycled PET). PET, which is the polymer/resin Polyethylene terephthalate (rigid portion of the Polyester chain), is commonly known as Polyester. PET prefixed with an “r” means the PET contains recycled content. The content can contain either pre-consumer or post-consumer recycled waste. Post -consumer refers to the empty packaging that is discarded by the consumer after use and becomes waste. Pre-consumer waste is often industrial waste. There is little wastage in the injection blow moulding bottle industry and more often than not, the pre-consumer waste is put back into the manufacturing process. rPET demand in South Africa is close to exceeding supply. The key challenge, currently, is to collect this post consumer PET before it gets to landfill.

Discarded PET bottles are collected, baled and delivered to the recycling plant where they are colour sorted, washed, granulated, re-washed, extruded (made into long thin strips of plastic) and cut into pellets.

These rPET pellets are then recycled into a number of items we encounter every day: feedstock fibre for polyester carpeting, shopping bags, ceiling insulation and geotextiles; fabric for T-shirts, long underwear, athletic shoes, luggage, upholstery and sweaters; fibrefill for sleeping bags and winter coats; industrial strapping, sheet and film; automotive parts, such as luggage racks, headliners, fuse boxes, bumpers, grilles and door panels; and new PET containers for both food and non-food products. Future application will include its return to bottle manufacturers for re-use.

The largest end-use market for post-consumer PET bottles in South Africa is currently the Bottle2Fibre (polyester staple fibre) market; although market saturation is within sight.

There is also installed capacity for Bottle2Foodgrade resin, with a recycled content of up to 25%, feasible. Uptake here is improving in leaps and bounds with the recent release of detergents, sandwich packs and juice bottles with recycled content into the market. Extrupet currently supply the market with rPET via the PhoenixPET brand, which is currently used in 1,5L juice bottles produced for Woolworths and the Sunlight Dishwashing Liquid bottle.

There are also approved Bottle2Bottle technologies in place for post-consumer PET bottles to be recycled into new bottles. This is where the future growth in South Africa will be and PETCO is currently spearheading a project with SABS to develop standards for recycled PET plastic content in food grade packaging.

See the Story of PET at

Call toll free: 0860 147 738 (0860 1 is PET)
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