The South African National Bottled Water Association (SANBWA) has welcomed the European Federation of Bottled Waters’ (EFBW) commitment to embracing the circular economy saying it will not only have a marked impact on recycling rates in Europe, it should inspire similar campaigns around the world.
Earlier this month (May 15), the EFBW announced four industry-wide pledges aiming to increase the collection of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles and the use of recycled PET, and to accelerate the shift towards a more circular European economy.
Through its membership of national trade associations and bottled water companies EFBW represents almost 600 natural mineral and spring water producers across Europe, has a membership base of 26 national trade associations, and 7 direct member companies.
All drink containers used by the European industry – be they PET, glass or aluminium – are recyclable. However, the level of collection of PET drink bottles varies substantially across the EU with some member states collecting more than 90% of PET bottles while others collect less than 20%.
The EFBW’s pledges are:
• Collect 90% of all PET bottles by 2025, as an EU average. Ensuring PET bottles are collected means that they can be used to produce new bottles or for other products. EFBW will be a driving force alongside all actors involved in the waste management process;
• Collaborate with the recycling industry to use at least 25% recycled PET (rPET) in its water bottles by 2025, as an EU average. To increase the use of rPET into new bottles, natural mineral and spring water producers require a consistent supply of high-quality recycled material;
• Innovate and invest further in eco-design and research on non-fossil based plastic materials. The bottled water industry has always had sustainability at its heart, and is continuously investing in packaging R&D. This includes optimising its packaging design through light- weighting, eco-innovation, and research on plastics from renewable origin;
• Engage with consumers who play a key role in preventing littering. The industry will support initiatives which encourage the proper sorting and disposal of packaging.
Speaking about the pledges, SANBWA Executive Director, Charlotte Metcalf, said: “PET drink bottles already achieve the highest recycling rate of any plastic packaging material in the EU. But the EFBW – like SANBWA – believes even one bottle ending up as litter is one too many.
“It will take a concerted, coordinated effort from many different value-chain actors to drive positive change. SANBWA applauds the EFBW and its members, who are stepping up to lead the way, and looks forward to seeing other geography-based economies doing the same.”
The national industry body in South Africa responsible for fulfilling the PET sector’s mandate of extended producer responsibility (EPR), PETCO, has an equally ambitious target for 2025 – 90% – one that PETCO CEO, Cheri Scholtz, is certain will be achieved.
Metcalf rated PETCO’s achievements locally as world-class. “Despite tough trading conditions and a 13% fall in the total PET market, the South African plastic 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,” she said.
“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.
“This is a phenomenal achievement by PETCO, its members, its collectors and its recyclers. Importantly, it bodes well for PETCO’s target of 90% PET recycling by 2025.”
Key to South Africa achieving the target is that bottles must be designed for recycling. For example, there should be no printing on bottles, no strange colours, no weird labels, and they should contain a percentage of rPET (recycled PET).
All SANBWA’s members are required to support post-consumer recycling initiatives near them, and to design for recycling. PETCO’s Design for Recycling Guide can be downloaded here: http://petco.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/PETCO_Design-4-Recycling-Guide.pdf