South Africa’s polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle recycling achievements continue to impress, despite global market contractions and the closure of recycler, Mpact Polymers.
This is the opinion of South African National Bottled Water Association (SANBWA) CEO, Charlotte Metcalf, referring to new statistics released by the PET Recycling Company (PETCO), which is the producer responsibility organisation for the sector.
PETCO’s statistics show that 62% of all PET plastic beverage bottles placed on the market in 2019 have been recycled – a trend which is in line with global PET recycling rates*. This amounts to 95 879 tonnes of post-consumer PET bottles collected, which would otherwise have occupied 594,448 cubic metres of landfill space and produced 144,000 tonnes of carbon emissions.
Aside from these environmental benefits, PET recycling also generated 65,900 income-earning opportunities among informal reclaimers and SMMEs, with R1.1 billion injected into the downstream economy via the manufacturing, distribution and sale of products made from recycled PET (rPET).
R372 million had been paid last year by recyclers for baled bottles delivered to their plants. Of these bottles, 57% were recycled into polyester staple fibre (PSF), with 36% used for food-grade rPET, with the remainder going into end-use applications such as geotextiles and industrial strapping.
“While PETCO chief executive officer Cheri Scholtz was disappointed with the overall 2% year-on-year decrease in volume, she did add it was as good as could be expected, given the significant loss of installed capacity following the closure of one of the country’s six PET recyclers.
“SANBWA agrees with Cheri, and applauds her and her team for the positive contribution they make to the economy and the lives of thousands of people, as well as the role they play in helping South Africa move towards a circular economy,” said Metcalf.
“SANBWA members are committed to increased recycling rates in South Africa. As a reciprocal member of PETCO, SANBWA fully supports PETCO goals with the requirements in its SANBWA Packaged Water Standard: Requirements for Source Water, Processing and Packaging, Version 4.0, September 2019.
“These requirements are formally audited by our independent third-party auditors, and include the requirement that members must source PET packaging material only from suppliers who contribute to the PETCO recycling levy.
“SANBWA members’ bottle and packaging design is assessed and scored to ensure that bottles, closures and labels facilitate and improve design for recycling. These design factors include shape, material composition, colour, weight, use of ink, adhesives and recycled material as outlined in PETCO’s Design for Recyclability document,” she said.
Speaking after the announcement of the 2019 figures, PETCO chairperson Tshidi Ramogase, who is also the public affairs, communications and sustainability director for Coca-Cola Beverages Africa, said credit for effective PET recycling in South Africa was due to PETCO’s member organisations who paid the voluntary extended producer responsibility (EPR) fee on every tonne of raw material they purchased, as well as the brand owners and raw material producers who contribute additional grants.
However, she pointed out that 23% of the industry does not contribute to the work done by PETCO through EPR funding, and hopes that PETCO’s track record in mobilising and sustaining the circular economy in PET will encourage them to join as members.
“The 2019 results have been achieved through partnerships with business large and small, organisations and numerous individuals, making a tangible positive impact on the lives of South Africans, contributing significantly to the economy, and minimising the impact of post-consumer PET on the environment,” said Ramogase.