It all starts with one. One bottle. One Consumer.
And essentially one core message – we only have one world and it’s up to all of us to look after it.
One type of plastic that is recycled more than any other in this country is PET, thanks to PETCO, who celebrates its 12th Anniversary this year.
They have worked with the plastics industry, community members, municipalities, NGO’s and entrepreneurs to create a more sustainable PET plastic recycling system.
Helping recyclers, collectors, development of new products
hey have injected R275 millions of financial support into the PET recycling system. Their financial support of the recyclers has created a ripple effect helping collectors and new downstream product development, such as the carpet in your car boot, the filling in your duvet and pillow or the ceiling insulation in your roof – all made out of recycled plastic bottles.
Their collective efforts have led to a 657% increase in recycling over the period, which is close to 6.7 million PET bottles collected and recycled each day in 2015. They’ve gone from 8 million bottles collected in their first year to over 2.45 billion bottles collected in 2015. They have helped to establish over 800 plastic recovery stations throughout South Africa, and grown their targets from 16% to 52% of post-consumer PET bottles recycled. This has helped to create income opportunities for an estimated 50 000 people.
PETCO has also helped to develop new end-uses for recycled PET, or rPET. More recently it is blended with virgin material for the production of new PET containers for both food and non-food products (bottles, sheet and film applications). Bottle-2-Bottle capacity represents the most sustainable use of the raw material by “closing the loop,” where the recycled resin can be used again and again in new bottles.
Quietly packaging materials are getting lighter
For several years, converters and brand owners have quietly been making their packaging materials lighter, yet more functional. Look at the humble washing-up liquid bottle, down from 120g to 50g in 30 years. And in the last 20 years, the weight of a plastic drinks bottle has typically dropped by 30%.
Packaging is part of the solution and is just one component in achieving sustainability goals. It is all about reduced fuel consumption from lighter loads, and reduced food waste when plastic packaging is used.
But what do they do with the material after we have used it?
Unfortunately, discarded plastics have become a symbol of mankind’s waste of resources. Too much of the plastics that we use as a society are eventually thrown into landfill.
This is not only a bad habit but also an inappropriate use of scarce resources, both in terms of land and the plastics themselves. What is more, municipalities are raising the cost of diverting rubbish to landfill to such an extent that our bad habits here in South Africa will soon cost us a lot of money out of our own pockets. However, this is largely avoidable if, as a society, we were to think about things differently.
With a little more thought, we could reduce, reuse, collect and recycle plastics much more efficiently than we currently do, and avoid the need for plastics to go to landfill altogether.
In the end no plastics to landfill
This is a very desirable goal, but it also represents a challenge – a challenge for the plastics industry; for government policy; for food manufacturers and retailers who use plastics in packaging; for environmental groups who advise us on how we should live; and ultimately for you as a consumer and human being.
Now, more than ever, is the time for a debate on the future of plastics; not just within the industry, but more widely. How do we use our natural resources more efficiently and avoid waste as much as we can? We must be brave and begin an open and honest conversation, challenging others and ourselves.