PET recycling in South Africa created 65 900 income-generating opportunities for informal reclaimers and SMMEs last year.
Last year, 95 879 tons of post-consumer PET beverage bottles were collected for recycling, saving 594 448m3 of landfill space and reducing carbon emissions by 144 000 tons.
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).
More than 23 904 tons of rPET were sold in South Africa, reflecting both the improving output at the remaining recyclers and the increasing demand for rPET.
Cheri Scholtz, PETCO CEO, said while the overall 2% year-on-year decrease in volume was disappointing, it was as good as could be expected. ‘Mpact Polymers’ closure has had a significant impact on our recycling capacity, with the remaining five recyclers unable to pick up the slack as they were already operating at maximum capacity in the fourth quarter.’
The country’s only bottle-to-bottle recycling plant, Extrupet, had been able to operate as an essential service provider under lockdown, which helped to keep the value chain moving.
According to Cheri, R372-million had been paid last year by recyclers for baled bottles delivered to their plants; 57% were recycled into polyester staple fibre (PSF), with 36% used for food-grade rPET, and the remainder going into end-use applications such as geotextiles and industrial strapping.
‘Despite the increasing demand for PET in packaging for hygiene products, such as sanitisers, and personal protective equipment, such as face shields, the demand for clothing and household textiles has plummeted, putting pressure on PSF production.’
PETCO chairperson, Tshidi Ramogase, who is also the public affairs, communications and sustainability director for Coca-Cola Beverages Africa, emphasised that credit for South Africa’s effective PET recycling rates must go to three value chain role players. PETCO’s member organisations who pay the voluntary extended producer responsibility (EPR) fee on every ton of raw material they purchase, as well as the brand owners and raw material producers who contribute additional grants.
‘Although we have 87% support in terms of PET beverage bottle volumes, 23% of the industry does not contribute to the work done by PETCO through EPR funding. We hope PETCO’s track record in mobilising and sustaining the circular economy in PET will be an encouragement and we remain open to welcoming them as members,’ Tshidi concluded.