The South African National Bottled Water Association (SANBWA) has praised the European Federation of Bottled Water (EFBW) for their decision to recycle more plastic. This commitment to a more sustainable bottled water industry will improve European recycling rates.
SANBWA executive director Charlotte Metcalf states that polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles are the most-commonly recycled packaging material. “But the EFBW, like SANBWA, believes even one bottle ending up as litter is one too many,” she says.
“It will take 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,” says Metcalf.
EFBW announces new PET pledges
The EFBW has promised to increase the collection of PET bottles, use more recycled PET in the manufacturing of plastic bottles and speed up the shift towards a more circular economy in Europe.
By law, all drink bottles in Europe must be recyclable, whether they are glass, plastic or aluminium. However, the collection of the discarded bottles for recycling is patchy in some European nations. Some states collect over 90% of their PET bottles while others barely collect 20%.
The EFBW has promised that it will be collecting an average of 90% of all PET bottles annually by 2025, across all member states. The federation will also work alongside the recycling industry to ensure that water bottles contain 25% recycled PET by 2025.
Another pledge made by the EFBW is to invest more in the research and production of innovative materials such as non-plastic packaging. This means that packaging design will be at the forefront of their research. The EFBW also wants to reduce litter by supporting initiatives that encourage proper recycling and sorting of waste.
The EFBW represents around 600 bottled water producers in Europe. Its members include 26 national trade associations and seven direct member companies.
South Africa has similar recycling goals
South Africa’s national body responsible for the PET manufacturing and recycling industries, PETCO, has similar targets to those of the EFBW. By 2025, PETCO hopes to be recycling 90% of all PET bottles. Metcalf states that PETCO is a world-class organisation.
“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 says.
“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,” says Metcalf. The industry target was exceeded as over 93 000 tonnes of collected PET was recycled in 2017. This accounts for 64 000 jobs for waste collectors, recyclers and informal pickers.
A key factor that directly affects the recyclability of PET bottles lies in their design. Bottles need to contain a certain percentage of recycled PET, there should be no printing on the bottles, no colours (besides brown, green or blue) and the labels need to be removable.
To achieve the 90% recycling rate by 2025 will require effort on all parts. The manufacturing industry, consumers, waste collectors and recycling facilities.
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