“The focus of waste management in South Africa is changing. No longer is the emphasis on the disposal of waste, but rather on avoiding its generation and minimizing and recycling the waste stream wherever possible.”
This was the key message conveyed by Lisa Parkes, Marketing Manager of PETCO, at a workshop held during Wastecon in Somerset West this month.
“The law regulating waste management is being transformed for a number of reasons,” said Lisa Parkes. “To create an integrated approach to waste management, to make waste management service delivery more cost effective and efficient, outline responsibilities, promote waste minimisation, re-use, recycling and recovery of waste, and importantly also to grow the contribution of the waste sector to the green economy.”
The National Environmental Management: Waste Amendment Bill, 2013 amended the National Environmental Management: Waste Act, 2008. This Bill provides legal clarity on what can be regarded as waste and by-products. It also clarifies what is understood under “recovery” and “re-use” of waste. The Department of Environmental (DEA) is currently preparing guidelines for implementation.
Initiatives to boost green economy and trigger green growth
“Industry is responding positively to the shifting legal environment and the concept of extended producer responsibility (EPR). We are driving and building on successful industry initiatives to boost the green economy and trigger green growth. There is also active dialogue taking place through the DEA’s Waste Management Forum.”
PETCO’s success in the decade since its inception relied on partnering with the key players in the market, which included the resin producers, converters, bottlers, brand owners and retailers, as well as recyclers and collectors, other organisations involved in waste management and recycling, government and consumers.
“We depend largely on developing these partnerships: forming them is complex and time-consuming, but if done successfully, it amplifies efforts that are of mutual interest and therefore leads to successes,” says Parkes. “Together we can improve recycling rates, and engage with key individuals within central and local government institutions.”
Aiming for zero plastic waste to landfill by 2030
PETCO supports the PlasticsSA ambitious vision of Zero Plastic Waste to Landfill by 2030 and directs its activities to contribute to such outcomes. Last year the PET market size in South Africa was 182 000 tonnes, and the amount of post-consumer PET bottles recycled was close to half (currently it stands at 48%).
Just over half of all virgin plastic in SA is used in the packaging sector. Of this amount, the PET market size is about 26%, with PET consumption growing by 8 to 10% per year. Close on 70% of it is used in the beverage sector, with the remaining markets being the sheet/tray, personal care, food, household and edible oil sectors.
Greg Watson, Collections Manager at Extrupet, gave a recycler’s perspective and shed light on the shifting dynamics of collections. He pointed out that important challenges remain for PET recycling. Recyclers need good quality, clean materials. It takes teamwork and partnerships to ensure they can access such material.
“Municipal buy-back centres and efficient transport solutions are very important. It is vital to ensure awareness and participation among consumers. Informal collectors do not necessarily understand how global markets work, so there’s a big need for education among the collectors. This should be conducted together with NPOs and municipalities.”
Simple innovation and sustainable solutions needed
Alison Davison, Head: Waste Minimisation at the City of Cape Town’ Solid Waste Management, highlighted the challenges and opportunities in municipal waste collection. She added local government insights into the management of domestic waste in South Africa.
“A lot of these issues can be overcome through fostering best practice and finding simple approaches that are innovative and sustainable,” she said.
Municipalities are at the coalface of interaction with communities and consumers, and can effect real behaviour change and encourage participation in collection projects.
PETCO’s Belinda Booker explained how their involvement with the Vaalpark pilot project, where PETCO worked closely with the local community, the municipality and others, underlined the importance of industry cooperating with all levels of government. This also emphasises the importance of the effective integration of the informal waste sector into such initiatives.
Indeed, one of the most important characteristics of PET recycling in South Africa is the high level of involvement of the informal sector, and the job creation that is possible through its initiatives. PETCO has contributed to a reduction in unemployment across South Africa by generating a total of almost 41 000 indirect income and sustainable livelihoods opportunities by 2013, as well as the facilitation of relevant skills development.