We don’t realise how lucky we are in this country. Did you know that almost all our PET (clear) plastic beverage bottles collected are recycled into a local end-use and not exported to China, as is done by many other countries?
This means that as more and more post-consumer PET bottles are collected, so end-use markets need to expand and develop. The largest end-use market for post consumer PET bottles in South African is currently the fibre market (Bottle to Fibre).
More recently, there is capacity for them to be recycled into new PET containers (bottle-2-foodgrade). B2FG resin take-up is, however, still relatively slow, so PETCO is working with retailers and brand owners to increase the demand for PET recyclate.
What happens to our bottles?
- Discarded post-consumer PET bottles are collected, baled and delivered to the recycler. Unfortunately too many of these are still collected from landfill, dirty.
- In the recycling plant, bottle tops are removed (they are made from PP – Polypropylene). The bottles are inspected and sorted according to colour, and any bottles that are not made of PET are removed.
- The sorted bottles are then granulated into flakes, which go through numerous hot and cold washes.
- Eventually they end up in a flotation basin to separate the remaining non-PET material. PET has a higher density than other plastics (except for PVC) and it will sink, while the other materials e.g. paper from labels, will rise to the top and float.
- These flakes are then dried and extruded into small clear pellets.
- These are are supplied to end-users for production into a number of items we encounter every day: fibre for polyester carpet; fabric for T-shirts and most importantly back into new PET containers for both food and non-food products.
PET recycling in South Africa has created over 18 000 jobs in the informal collector segment.
Education & consumer awareness is the main thrust
PETCO also supports projects with a strong focus on public and consumer based education and awareness programmes, which .nitiatives and activities contributed to the visible recycling of PET. Many of these programmes, such as beach clean-ups, trade shows, bailing equipment, bulk bag collection and training are initiated together with support from the Plastics Federation of South Africa (PFSA).
Workshops for members, on topics such as designing PET bottles and containers with recycling in mind to reduce contamination, are hosted by PETCO around South Africa. Together with major retailers Woolworths and Pick ‘n Pay, PETCO has established the ‘Retailers for Recycling Forum.’
They aim to minimize the environmental impact of post consumer packaging on the South African landscape by creating awareness amongst consumers of recycling issues and supporting retailers as they work with their own suppliers to ensure that packaging is designed with reduction, re-use and recycling in mind. PETCO hopes this will include all retailers and also all packaging materials as it unfolds.
A bag that tells a story
PETCO partnered with Woolworths to develop a re-usable shopping bag that tells the story of PET plastic recycling together with a plastics bedtime story. The graphic illustrates the recycling process and encourages consumers to be part of the PETCO family.
PETCO has also undertaken a new marketing campaign this year that will run from July to December. For many years PET bottles have been seen as trash. Through a meticulous production process, PETCO’s ad agency ‘Derrick’ together with photographer Simon Barnes polished, shot and retouched PET bottles, emphasising their true value as one would any item of value.
‘Waste is not waste until it is wasted’ says PETCO CEO Cheri Scholtz. ‘If we can get consumers to understand that our bottles are not trash and participate in recycling, then we will have made good progress’ she adds.
Recently PETCO was honoured at The Mail and Guardian’s prestigious Green the Future Awards, an annual event that celebrates the achievements by companies and organisations at the forefront of ensuring a sustained and healthy planet for all people. PETCO received a special commendation for the work they’ve been doing to promote recycling of PET in South Africa. The awards are designed to inspire innovation and action to address the causes of climate change, reduce impacts on our resources and improve eco-efficiency in people.
Why bother to have your PET plastic recycled?
- Recycling 1 ton of PET plastic bottles saves 1.5 ton of carbon.
- It also decreases the need for raw materials and saves energy.
- Recycling a single plastic bottle can conserve enough energy to light a 60W light bulb for up to 6 hours.
No more plastics to landfill
PETCO is working with the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and stiff collection targets for 2015 have already been set. The aim is for the public and private sector to put a cost- effective separation at source strategy in place. To implement kerbside collection more widely and to reduce, reuse, recycle and recover plastics much more efficiently than we do at the moment and to avoid altogether plastics from going to landfill. Low recycling rates negatively affect the ability to supply markets and will not encourage new projects.
‘PETCO is a member of the Recovery Action Group (RAG),’ says Scholtz and this group which represents the packaging waste stream, has put together a draft Industry Paper and Packaging Waste Management Plan. Ultimately this plan will be used to improve the collection of recyclables from the municipal solid waste stream prior to landfill.
- PETCO is the non-profit industry body responsible for facilitating and driving PET plastic recycling in South Africa. Consisting mainly of plastic bottles, PET is identified with a number 1 polymer identification code near or at the bottom of the container. Established in 2004 with the mission to minimize the environmental impact that post consumer PET has on the SA landscape, PET plastic recycling has since grown from 9840 tons in 2004 to 37 842 tons in 2010. Today 2 million PET bottles are recycled each day. These recycling rates have been achieved in partnership with contracted service providers Extrupet, Kaymac and Sen Li Da who combine collection, recycling and end-use in their PET value chain.
PETCO urges all involved in the PET packaging industry chain to become members of PETCO, in order to protect and promote PET growth, awareness, recycling and reuse. A strong membership base also helps the PET industry to influence national environmental authorities.