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South Africa sees an increase in plastic recycling

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Even though 2009 saw the beginning of an economic crisis, PET or Polyethylene Terephthalate (the plastic used to make our water and soft drink bottles) recycling figures continued to grow. According to PETCO (the industry’s first joint effort to self-regulate post consumer plastic recycling) 29 048 tons of PET were recovered in 2009, which is 6 311 tons more than that recovered in the previous year.

While the world faced an economic crisis in 2009, PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate, commonly known as the plastic used to produce soft drink and water bottles) recycling figures in South Africa continued to grow despite these extremely tough trading conditions. PETCO (the industry’s first joint effort to self-regulate post consumer plastic recycling) has announced a recycling rate of 29,048 tons of PET recovered in 2009, 6,311 tons higher than 2008 and equivalent to 32% of the beverage PET market in South Africa.

PETCO achieved this recycling rate in partnership with its contracted service providers, Extrupet, Hosaf, Kaytech and newcomer Sen Li Da who combine collection, recycling and end-use in their PET value chains. Recyclers are contracted by PETCO as a service to the South African PET industry to collect and recycle as many plastic bottles as possible used within the domestic food and beverage market by the bottle manufacturers, fillers, retailers and brand owners, and later disposed of by consumers as waste packaging.

These recyclers are in reality working as a service to each and every one of us who use these containers in our daily lives. This venture creates jobs, reduces litter, alleviates the need for landfill space, and reduces our dependence on the planet’s finite crude oil reserves.

“The collection rate in 2009 would not, however, have been possible without the increased voluntary financial support from the bottlers, converters, raw material producer and Coca-Cola South Africa”” says PETCO CEO Cheri Scholtz.

2009 turned out to be a landmark year – PETCO welcomed the start up of the Sen Li Da Chemical Fibre Company, a new recycler based in Newcastle in KZN and entered into a contract with them in January 2010.

Sen Li Da have established a vertically integrated plant that recycles post consumer PET bottles into 3D conjugate hollow fibre which is sold into the South African market, which is likely to displace some imports into the country. Products made from this fibre include carpeting, pillows, blankets, roof insulation and automotive seats. Secondly, 2009 saw the expansion of the Extrupet plant in Wadesville to produce food grade pr√™t for the Food and Beverage Industry. This landmark development means that a percentage of recycled PET (rPET) can be put back into virgin containers, thereby closing the packaging loop and providing a new end use market for recycled PET in South Africa. “”This end use market development is key”” says Scholtz, “”if we are to continually grow the tonnage of PET collected and recycled, and represents a first in Africa.””

Thirdly, South Africa saw the introduction of the new Waste Management Act come into effect on the 1st July 2009, which effectively makes extended producer responsibility a legal requirement going forward, and which defines the waste hierarchy into reduce, reuse, recycle, recover landfill only what is absolutely necessary. Regulations must be promulgated in terms of the new act within two years, and the packaging industry is working on the development of a Paper and Packaging Industry Waste Management Plan.

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