South Africans can be proud of their recycling efforts – our recycling rates outstrip the European rates by more than 12%. While polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles are the second most-recycled material in South Africa, their volumes are likely to grow in the coming years.
Experts in the waste management industry expect PET recycling volumes to reach 70% by 2022. Beverage manufacturers and bottlers are working alongside waste management companies to improve the recycling rate of plastic bottles. Efficient and effective bottle recovery is small towns will give the necessary boost to reach the PET recycling target.
Recycling rates increase every year
Currently, about 65% of all plastic bottles are recycled in South Africa. These stats have risen from 55% in 2016, which puts South Africa on par with international standards. Voluntary recycling in South African households is also becoming more common, and initiatives such as the City of Johannesburg’s mandatory separation at source will bring about the improvement.
Recently, China banned certain waste streams from entering its borders. While this decision has yet to have an impact on South African waste and recycling stats, it will drive innovation in the industry. Local solutions will need to be devised to manage the disposal of waste that was previously exported to China.
Waste generation also increases every year
While the recycling rates improve year-on-year, so does waste generation. The amount of waste produced in Africa is expected to double by 2025. “Three years ago, we crossed over the 50% [PET recycling] line, and while we’re doing really well, we know there’s a lot of material that is still going into the waste stream,” says PETCO chairperson Dr Casper Durandt.
He argues that more can be done in small towns in South Africa. Currently, recycling efforts in remote communities are being hindered by transportation issues and the costs of taking bottles to urban areas for processing. South Africa is on the right track with its recycling initiatives and efforts. Improvement is always needed but we can be proud of our progress so far.
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