South Africa’s polyethylene terephthalate (PET) recycling figures have increased by six percent from the previous year. This is according to the latest statistics released by the PET Recycling Company (PETCO). The report reveals that South Africa recycled 98 649 tonnes of post-consumer PET plastic bottles in 2018, saving 612 000 cubic metres of landfill space.
These results are a six percent increase in the 2017 recycling statistics, where 93 235 tonnes of PET bottles were recycled. According to the PETCO report, and average of 6.2 million plastic bottles were recycled every day across South Africa during 2018 – that’s 2.3 billion bottles recycled over the entire year.
This increased volume of recycling created around 68 000 jobs for waste management companies and independent waste collectors. The benefits of recycling extend beyond the collection and processing of plastic waste. PETCO says that about R1.2 billion was created in the downstream markets where recycled plastic is resold and redistributed around the country.
Increasing pressure to recycle plastic
While PETCO chief executive officer Cheri Scholtz describes these statistics as encouraging, she also says that recycling facilities are facing pressure when it comes to plastic recycling. With growing attention being focussed on the issue of plastic waste and single-use plastic products, recycling facilities are receiving increasing volumes of waste to process.
“Now, more than ever, companies failing to address environmental performance in product design and development will find it increasingly difficult to compete in the global market. Globally, product stewardship or extended producer responsibility (EPR) has become the requirement for all producers. In South Africa, the Waste Act now makes this a legal requirement,” explains Scholtz.
“Clearly, it cannot be right to allow plastics to leak into the environment, but neither is it acceptable to lose the opportunity to utilise plastic as a fit-for-purpose and cost-effective material for so many applications,” she adds. This boost in recycling rates is helping all waste management companies to reach their targets and goals.
Recycling can be bolstered through legislation
The local recycling rates, while better than many other countries around the world, can be further bolstered by legislation and backing from the government. “Creating the right balance of legislative drivers and positive long-term business conditions will allow a viable and resilient system to be established which demonstrates the value of plastics as a circular material and prevents plastic in the natural environment,” says Scholtz.
PETCO chairman Dr Casper Durandt has echoed these sentiments by saying that the high collection and recycling rates can only continue to grow if all industry stakeholders work together as a team. “Brand owners must design packaging to be 100% recyclable by, for example, removing colour, PVC and multi-layered packaging,” explains Durandt.
By making laws that enforce sustainability practices, the government can help manufacturers, retailers and waste management companies to optimise their processes and work together for a more sustainable economy. These recycling statistics are the result of years of hard work by waste collectors and recycling facilities, combined with the efforts of society who are starting to care more about recycling.
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