“Leaders, visionaries, activists and people are led by intuition and fed by imagination as they redraw the maps and rewrite the rules.”
(Adapted from the PETCO 10 year Anniversary Review.)
Ten years have passed since PETCO was founded to look after the recycling of PET plastic in South Africa. PETCO is also the Green Times’ most longstanding and loyal partner, who grasped our vision for educating our nation from day one and worked with us throughout the past 7 years.
Congratulations on your persistence and THANK YOU for your wide and integrated approach to education, collaboration and partnerships with all roleplayers in the industry. This is indeed the winning recipe which has produced the inspiring Petco story we can all learn from.
The dream: recycling melded into our fabric
“PETCO’s ideal is that recycling will become an intentional, stable component of South Africa’s waste system, melded into the fabric of the country’s cities. Drop off centres will pop up in every neighbourhood and consumers will be able to recycle most of their packaging containers. Municipalities will be closer to their target of zero waste to landfill, reducing methane gas emissions and minimising the human contribution to climate change. Thousands of jobs will be created, recycling co-operatives will flourish, and communities will improve the quality of their lives,” says CEO Cheri Scholtz.
She continued: “Packaging will be designed with recycling in mind, and converters and brand owners will use increasing quantities of recycled material in new packaging, creating a demand for recyclate, and closing the loop. Many beneficial products will be made from post-consumer packaging, creating income and skills development opportunities for entrepreneurs and communities. More than anything, we dream that together we can assume more control through joint actions with our families, our neighbours, our local businesses, and even our politicians and government at all levels.”
Dance between formal and informal sectors
Recycling is an intricate business. With one foot in the formal sector and the other in the informal sector, interactions are complex. PETCO keeps a close eye on both camps, assisting where it has the most impact to keep the wheels of collection turning.
Why recycle PET?
- Plastic bottles are valuable and create income opportunities for informal collectors.
- Increased plastic bottle recycling leads to job creation in the waste management, product development, manufacturing and marketing sectors.
- Local authorities are obliged to increase recovery, recycling and composting household waste to reach mandatory government targets. Separation at source projects must be initiated by municipalities by 2016.
- Recycling reduces landfill requirements, increasing the life of landfill sites and cutting disposal costs.
- Plastic bottle recycling provides a valuable public service for which demand is high.
- PET bottles are made from one of the few polymers that can be recycled into the same form again, neatly closing the loop.
- The demand for recycled PET (rPET) is on the rise because of its environmental pedigree.
- Plastic bottles are widely used, abundant and very visual. There’s potential to remove an even more significant volume from the waste stream than is
currently the case.
- Recycling plastic bottles decreases the need for raw materials and saves energy. Recycling a single tonne of plastic bottles saves 1.5 tonnes of carbon.
- Currently 5.4 million post-consumer PET bottles are recycled daily in South Africa.
Closed loop recycling is here
PETCO’s partnership with Extrupet saw the loop being closed for the first time in South Africa in 2009, when the first rPET was blended with virgin resin for food-grade bottles and trays. Now, Extrupet is investing in expanding its food-grade plant to include Carbonated Soft Drink (CSD) approved rPET and Mpact Polymers is investing R350-million in a state-of-the-art PET plant for Bottle2Bottle recycling.
This is where the future growth in South Africa will be, and represents the most sustainable use of raw material by ‘closing the loop’, for resin to be used again and again. It’s truly a ‘cradle to cradle’ approach and supports a circular economy view.
Once PET bottles are in the hands of consumers they have three possible end-of-life outcomes once the contents have been enjoyed. They are reused, recycled or thrown away and sent to landfill. Every purchase made by a consumer is a vote of confidence in the product and recognition of the quality and environmental credentials of that product and the company that produces it.
Consumers play a major role in making food chains more sustainable by the choices they make when buying food. Increasingly, they are engaging in precycling – choosing products that are contained in recyclable packaging or that contain recycled content.
Many are keen to participate in recycling and trust brand owners and retailers to make the right green decisions regarding their products. Consumers make the decision to separate packaging for recycling at home.
1 in 2 bottles to be collected
In South Africa, almost one in every two plastic bottles is collected for recycling. Recovery of plastic bottles provides an economic lifeline for informal collectors, as well as for the semi-formal sector (collection from drop-off sites, Material Recovery Facilities, transfer sites and landfill reclamation sites). Collection also occurs through the more formalised kerbside collection projects being rolled out across the country.
Annually, PET recycling creates some 41 000 income opportunities in the informal sector.
Collectors form a vital link in the value chain by providing feedstock – post-consumer PET bottles to recyclers for reprocessing. They provide a beneficial public service by collecting valuable material that would otherwise end up in landfills, and they add value and contribute to the efficiency of the supply chain by providing good, clean, sorted material of a consistent quality.
Once collected, sorted and baled, PET bottles are delivered to factories that reprocess them into rPET flakes or pellets. These are then used to manufacture various products for local and export markets.
Recyclers utilise and develop the existing collection infrastructure. They offer training and development for collectors, as well as the provision of equipment.
They develop recycling technologies and provide ongoing end-use market development, acquiring customers locally and supplying international markets with their products. Recyclers also provide education for designers, converters and brand owners on what is technically, environmentally and economically possible.
A new phase of packaging and waste management
PETCO undertakes an array of projects, from in-kind donations and joint-cause marketing campaigns to joint ventures with other industry bodies. Partners leverage collective funding to maximise impact and reach a greater pool of stakeholders. They realise industry’s strategic goals. They improve waste management and recycling, and amplify the inherent environmental, resource-efficiency and socio-economic benefits that recycling offers. Partners increase public and consumer awareness, and foster best practice, research, development and innovation.
“The passion and dedication of Cheri and her team when it comes to the ideals of cleaning up South Africa make it a much better place for all of us. I’ve been in this industry for a long time, and very seldom have I worked with people who are so committed to the cause.
We’re now entering a new phase of packaging and waste management. The government has aspirations to involve itself in our industry and I have no doubt that the road ahead will be particularly tough. However, working with people like Cheri and her team, I have no doubt that, as an industry, we will be successful as we forge ahead. I’d like to thank PETCO for what they’ve done and continue to do for our industry.”
Charles Muller, Packaging Council of South Africa
70% of post-consumer PET bottles recycled by 2022
“Public Private Partnerships address major challenges and opportunities for economic growth. There are opportunities for increasing waste innovation as we move up the waste hierarchy, and recycling can be a driver of the Green Economy, contributing to enhancing resource efficiency, reducing environmental impact and generating jobs and business opportunities. The Department of Science & Technology is currently developing a Waste Research, Development and Innovation Roadmap with the CSIR. The industry has been instrumental in the development of this roadmap, and PETCO has provided valuable support, guidance and evidence on behalf of the plastics waste sector. I’d like to thank the whole sector and PECTO, in particular, for its support. We wish PETCO great success for the future.” Magamase Mange, Dept of Science & Technology
The PET industry has an impressive track record of extended producer responsibility in action. They have grown the economy, developed and expanded from community to community, town to town, and even made our presence felt from country to country, and from continent to continent. Petco is on track to recycle 70% of post-consumer PET bottles by 2022.
“This is in no small way thanks to our partners, members and each sector who add to the PET recycling value chain,” Cheri enthuses. “Here’s to the next decade of new partnerships and the achievement of zero plastic waste to landfill by 2030. The steady improvements made through collections must continue so that our future targets can be met, and less and less plastic waste is sent to landfill.
Where are we heading with recycling in SA?
Regarding the future, we should turn to the Government’s National Environmental Management Waste Amendment Bill (NEMWA) for an inkling of what is to come.
To increase recycling rates across all waste streams, there will be waste management charges that include an array of economic instruments about which the details are not yet clear. Another important addition to the Bill is the addition of a clause that empowers the Minister responsible for environmental affairs to publish a pricing strategy to achieve the objectives of the NEMWA.
There will also be a new structure, the Waste Bureau, to provide capacity for the processing, monitoring and evaluation of Industry Waste Management Plans as submitted to DEA.