The recycling of PET (clear) beverage bottles is a success story in our country, as yearly more impressive targets are met. This was proven recently during the review of the latest statistics for 2010 at the PETCO annual general meeting.
PETCO chairman Casper Durandt (pictured, right), and CEO Cheri Scholtz shared their achievements with the Green Times:
‘PETCO continued to build momentum and embarked on a more ambitious collection and awareness programme. This was a landmark year, as the organisation exceeded its recycling target by 4 968 tons!
Upward trend maintained
For the sixth successive year, the post-consumer PET bottle-recycling rate increased, despite a rise in bottle prices. While the world faced an economic crisis in 2009 and into 2010, PET recycling figures in South Africa continued to grow despite tough trading conditions.
During 2010 an annual Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) recycling rate of 38% of post consumer beverage PET and 27% of total PET was achieved.
37 361 tons of PET were collected and recycled out of a 142 000 ton resin market. This increase was made possible by the increased voluntary financial support from PETCO’s members, who had agreed to pay an increased recycling levy of R275/ton as from 01 January 2010 and R300/ton from 01 July 2010.
Recycling levy reaps benefits
By paying the recycling levy and contributing through grants-in-aid, the PET converters, bottlers, raw material producer and Coca-Cola South Africa have all helped PETCO to expand its collection network.
In achieving this exceptional recycling rate, R35 million was awarded by PETCO to initiatives aimed at increasing the economically viable collection and recycling of post consumer PET.
This recycling rate was achieved in partnership with contracted service providers – Extrupet, Hosaf Recycling, Kaymac Engineered Fabrics and Sen li Da – who combine collection, recycling and end-use in their PET value chain.
Growth in consumption of PET resin was good especially during Quarter 4 of 2010 as a result of a good early start to the warm weather. Quarter 4 also saw a big escalation in polymer prices as a result of the damage to the cotton crop in Pakistan, which led to increased demand on Polyester staple fibre.
Recycled PET is main trend
There was strong interest on the part of brand owners in converting food and non-food containers to PET from other materials based on PET’s recyclability, and the suitability of recycled PET (rPET) for use in new packaging. The interest in rPET seems likely to contribute to future industry growth as pressure continues for environmentally sound packaging, the economy recovers, and consumer spending increases.
South African PET Recycling is unique, as almost all of the post consumer PET bottles collected are recycled into a local end-use – mainly fibre and more recently Bottle-2-Bottle – and not exported to China, as is done in many other countries. Therefore 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 Africa, at approximately 22 000 tons, is currently the fibre market (Bottle-2-Fibre). Due to heavy competition, the Bottle-2-Fibre end-use market is almost saturated and is limiting PETCO’s performance. The future plan is to put an increasing amount of post-consumer bottles back into PET bottle resin.
Bottle to food grade a new local innovation
More recently, Extrupet is recycling post-consumer bottles into new food contact end uses (Bottle-2-Foodgrade). The primary reason for the demand for rPET is its competitive price. Food grade rPET is currently being offered at a price about 10% below virgin PET.
Recycled PET is a reliable and sought-after feedstock in the PET value chain and sustainable, long life uses need to be developed to utilise the growing supply of recycled PET. It is expected that South African companies will move in the same direction as their overseas counterparts, where rPET has been used in food and beverage applications for over six years now.
Whether PET bottles are recycled into another bottle, fibre, sheet, strapping tape or any of the new applications, the energy saving is significant. rPET resin take-up is still slow and PETCO is working with retailers and brand owners to increase the demand.
Your concern counts
Renewed interest in recycling – driven both by the business sector embracing the sustainability ethic, and by the public’s concern for the environment – led to the creation of more recycling collection opportunities, both residential and at drop off centres and other collection points.
However, capacity utilisation of our recycle plants is not full at present. This provides the challenge for municipalities, collectors, industry and consumers to increase the current collection rate beyond 38% to load the recycling facilities already in place.’
Too many consumers continue to be unaware of the significant usefulness, demand, and value of recycled PET.
That’s exactly the message that PETCO is aiming to send to South Africans with the launch of their new consumer campaign. Data and experience show that plastic bottle recycling can be increased through sustained local education campaigns.
What are the recycling challenges?
- Municipalities need to understand that they too can benefit from the prices being paid for bales of clean bottles, including revenue sharing to fund educational programs and other costs of collection. (Curbside collection schemes are the predominant method for the collection of plastic packaging in Europe. Bring schemes are also sometimes used instead of, or alongside curbside, to form part of the recyclables collection infrastructure which local authorities offer. Bring schemes provide consumers with the opportunity to remove their recyclables from the household waste stream and deposit them at public collection points.)
- Although there are some curbside and drop-off projects in South Africa, this country still has a long way to go to mainstream this type of collection.
- PETCO believes that high rates of recycling can only be achieved through the separation of waste at household level. There needs to be a vigorous and cost-effective strategy by both the public and private sector to implement curbside recycling more widely and to reduce, reuse, recycle and recover plastics much more efficiently than we do at the moment – and to avoid the need altogether for plastics to go to landfill.
Extended producer responsibility
From a legislative perspective, South Africa saw the introduction of the new Waste Management Act on the 1st July 2009, which effectively makes Extended Producer Responsibility a legal requirement going forward. Together with PACSA, PETCO has worked hard on the development of an Industry Waste Management Plan (IWMP) for the Paper and Packaging Industries.
Industry Waste Management Plans (IndWMPs) are the main co-regulatory instrument within the waste management system in South Africa. They describe the waste related issues and specify how the industry will address these issues, giving specific actions, targets and timeframes. The IWMP is a requirement of the Minister, and when approved, those companies not belonging to PETCO, will not be compliant, and could be asked by the Minister to publish their own plans.
This plan will be used to facilitate collection and to reduce those tons currently finding their way onto dumpsites before recovery. This is consistent with current good practice around the world.
R1 million to education and awareness
PETCO also supported projects with a strong focus on public and consumer based education and awareness programs. Nearly R1m was spent on such initiatives. Our partnership with PlasticslSA in creating awareness about PET and PET Recycling continues to be a close and mutually beneficial one for which PETCO is appreciative.
Together with Woolworths and Pick ‘n Pay, PETCO is driving a Retailers for Recycling Forum. Retailers have a prominent role to play in creating awareness amongst consumers of recycling issues and can also work with suppliers to ensure that packaging is designed with reduction, re-use and recycling in mind.
The Retailers for Recycling Forum is an opportunity for retailers to share insights and best practice with respect to recycling and consumer awareness. PETCO is hopeful that retailers will continue to support and champion recycling efforts.
Travels to learn more
PETCO, as a member of EPRO, has participated in the Identiplast International Conference in London in August 2010 and also visited Fost Plus in Belgium. This non-profit organization co-ordinates, finances and promotes the selective collection, sorting and recycling of household packaging waste, in order to reach the recycling and recovery rates specified by law.
This year, PETCO have, together with DEA, a range of ambitious PET recycling targets and goals. Their target for 2011 is 44 100 tons or 42 % beverage PET recycled out of an estimated market size of 150 000 tons.
Other partners, such as the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), the Recovery Action Group (RAG), the Packaging Council of SA (PACSA), the National Recycling Forum (NRF), Institute of Waste Management SA (IWMSA), PlasticslSA and the SA National Bottled Water Association (SANBWA), share an ambitious vision to shape waste management practices in South Africa.