2012 marked a period of continued achievement for the PET Plastic Recycling Company (Pty) Ltd (PETCO) and its’ 28 signatories. This activity has contributed to the increased recovery and recycling of PET plastic beverage bottles, and the diversion of material from landfill.
PETCO is pleased to announce that post-consumer plastic beverage bottle recycling volumes in South Africa grew by 18% year on year in 2012. The recycling rate rose from 42% in 2011 to 45% in 2012, whilst the local market consumption of PET grew from 145 000 to 166 000 tonnes.
“By recycling 45% of post –consumer beverage PET, we achieved a full 1% more than what was targeted for 2012” says Cheri Scholtz, CEO of PETCO. Recycling volumes increased from 42 562 tonnes in 2011 to 50 280 tonnes of post –consumer PET bottles being recycled in 2012 –a 7718 tonne increase.
What does this mean in layman’s terms? With approximately 39 bottles in a kilogram, PETCO facilitated the recycling of over 1.9 billion PET plastic beverage bottles in 2012, that’s 5.3 million bottles each and every day.
Close to R193 million was paid for sorted, baled bottles delivered to recyclers and approximately R422 million was injected into the local economy through the sale of recycled PET for downstream products.
From an environmental perspective, by recycling 50 280 tonnes of PET plastic beverage bottles, 75 420 tonnes of carbon was saved. This is the equivalent of the amount of carbon sequestered in a year by cultivating 17 957 hectares of spekboom. By recycling this amount and reducing the volume of post-consumer PET plastic in the waste stream, 311 736 cubic metres of landfill space was saved, that’s the same volume of just under 125 Olympic sized swimming pools.
- 1 tonne of PET recycled saves 1.5 tonnes of carbon
- 1 ha of spekboom sequesters 4.2 tonnes of carbon per annum
- By recycling 1 tonne of PET, 6.2 cubic metres of landfill space is saved
- 1 Olympic swimming pool has a volume of 2500 cubic metres
PETCO could not have achieved this without the support of their collectors and contracted service providers, Extrupet, Kaytech and Sen Li Da who combine collection, recycling and end-use in their PET value chain. Furthermore, the financial support that PETCO provides to its contracted service providers ensures that post-consumer beverage bottles are collected, that there is an end-use market for them and facilitates the expansion of both recycled PET fibre (Bottle 2 Fibre) and recycled PET for food grade (Bottle 2 Food grade) packaging markets.
This year PETCO celebrates its 8th anniversary. The 2012 results serve as an affirmation of the efforts of the PETCO members and as a benchmark for improvement in 2013. “There is still much work to do to capture the remaining percentage of bottles that were not collected and with the post–consumer PET recycling targets set to rise to 58% in 2017, with a growing market size, increasing the volume of bottles collected for recycling is thought to be the best method of achieving this” says Scholtz.
PETCO sets recycling targets for 5 year window periods, thus knowing what they are looking to achieve, growing the industry by an additional 5 000-6 000 tonnes per annum. 2015 will be a milestone year, with PET recycling targets set at 50% – that’s half of all post-consumer beverage PET in the market.
“A step change is required to meet our targets in years to come” says Scholtz. “As the Bottle Fibre market is reaching saturation additional investment is required in Bottle 2 Bottle capacity – which involves the specialised recycling of clean bottles to produce recycled PET pellets that can be used in the manufacture of new bottles. We would need to up collection rates to get feedstock for this new end use and that’s where the challenge lies for PETCO. This would involve seeking opportunities to improve collaboration across the supply chain as well as with municipalities, collectors, industry and consumers,” added Scholtz.
Getting everyone on board
PETCO is of the opinion that creative South African solutions are required and opportunities lie in various arenas and that growth needs to be economically feasible and at an affordable cost to consumers. There is a need for more visible, accessible infrastructure in the form of drop off facilities, buy back centres and material recovery facilities, enabled by increased investment in the recycling sector and making it a bankable sector. Modern thinking is needed around efficient, integrated collection systems that work.
Overseas studies have seen that providing a smaller container for general waste, a larger container for recyclables, decreased frequency of collection (i.e. fortnightly instead of weekly), door-to-door collection, kerbside collection and separation at source, promotion of higher quality service and incentives such as charging for the quantity of residual waste left out improves participation. Increased awareness and education of consumers around reduction, reuse and recycling is also key, with social media being used to promote behaviour change.
PETCO also sees the role of training and mentorship being critical, supporting the existing collectors and facilitating the emergence of entrepreneurs and newcomers to the collection business. Partnerships with industry stakeholders are also critical, with the opportunity to improve collaboration across sectors thus tapping into knowledge, resources and systems.
Innovative designs needed
Lastly there is a need for constant innovation in the field of design (for recycling) ensuring that all bottles produced are in fact recyclable, and get recycled, instead of going to landfill as well as a pioneering in the identification of new end use markets for recycled PET, which ultimately will draw material through the system. As plastic bottles are not trash they are a valuable technical nutrient in many new products.
“We look forward to innovation in this arena, the establishment of new markets and products that translate to new Category A project applications for PETCO” says Scholtz.
2013 is set to be a groundbreaking year if progress is made in any, or all of these arenas, and this coupled with renewed interest in recycling can lead to realisation of these targets, resulting in enhanced economic development, job creation, reduction of poverty and setting South Africa on a more sustainable growth path.