PET Recycling Company (PETCO) released new statistics which revealed that 62% of all PET plastic beverage bottles produced in the country in 2019 were collected for recycling.
The 62% figure adds up to a whopping 95,879 tonnes of post-consumer PET bottles and had these not been collected, they would have taken up 594,448 cubic metres of landfill space and produced 144,000 tonnes of carbon emissions.
South Africa’s plastic recycling value chain also creates thousands of jobs for informal reclaimers who returned to work under level 3 of the national lockdown.
PET recycling generated 65,900 income-earning opportunities among informal reclaimers and SMMEs in South Africa in 2019, with R1.1bn injected into the downstream economy through the manufacturing, distribution and sale of products made from recycled PET (rPET).
Cheri Scholtz, CEO of PETCO said while the overall 2% year-on-year decrease in volume was disappointing, it was as good as could be expected considering the significant loss of capacity following the shutting down of one of South Africa’s six PET recyclers.
“The closure of Mpact Polymers had a significant impact on our capacity to recycle, with the remaining recyclers unable to pick up the slack as they were already operating at maximum capacity in the fourth quarter,” said Scholtz.
According to Scholtz, the weight of rPET sold, more than 23,904 tonnes, was similar to 2018, reflecting both the improving output at the remaining recyclers and the increasing demand for rPET.“This shows that consumers and brand owners are starting to take their product packaging’s green credentials seriously,” said Scholtz.
R372m was paid in 2019 by recyclers for baled bottles delivered to their plants. Of these, 57% was recycled into polyester staple fibre (PSF), 36% was used for food-grade rPET and the rest went into end-use applications like geotextiles and industrial strapping.
Extrupet was able to operate as an essential service under lockdown, which has helped to keep the value chain moving. “Our recyclers continue to buy post-consumer PET plastic bottles, albeit at reduced volumes, which is another positive for our industry, as many other material recovery processes haven’t been able to operate,” noted Scholtz.