Latest stats show 62% of all PET plastic beverage bottles produced in SA in 2019 were collected for recycling.
Despite global market contractions, and now the rolling economic impact of Covid-19, South Africa’s PET plastic recycling value chain has kept its wheels turning, delivering another positive annual recycling rate while creating thousands of jobs for informal reclaimers who returned to work under level three of the national lockdown. According to new statistics released by the PET Recycling Company (PETCO), which is the producer responsibility organisation for the sector, 62% of all polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic beverage bottles placed on the market in 2019 have been recycled – a trend which is in line with global PET recycling rates*.
This amounts to 95,879 tonnes of post-consumer PET bottles collected, which would otherwise have occupied 594,448 cubic metres of landfill space and produced 144,000 tonnes of carbon emissions. Aside from these environmental benefits, PET recycling also generated 65,900 income-earning opportunities among informal reclaimers and SMMEs, with R1.1 billion injected into the downstream economy via the manufacturing, distribution and sale of products made from recycled PET (rPET).
PETCO chief executive officer Cheri Scholtz said while the overall 2% year-on-year decrease in volume was disappointing, it was as good as could be expected, given the significant loss of installed capacity following the closure of one of the country’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.” On a positive note, Scholtz said the tonnage of rPET sold in South Africa – more than 23 904 tonnes – was similar to 2018, reflecting both the improving output at the remaining recyclers, as well as the increasing demand for rPET.
Caption: PETCO board chair, Tshidi Ramogase, said 23% of the industry did not contribute to the work done by PETCO through EPR funding. “The 2019 results have been achieved through partnerships with business large and small, organisations and numerous individuals, making a tangible positive impact on the lives of South Africans, contributing significantly to the economy, and minimising the impact of post-consumer PET on the environment,” said Ramogase.