Feedback from government on the draft Paper and Packaging Industry Waste Management Plan is expected this year, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic recycling company Petco CEO Cheri Scholtz tells Engineering News.
The plan was submitted to the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) last year by the Recovery Action Group (Rag), which represents all local packaging recycling organisations, including Petco, the Polystyrene Packaging Council of South Africa, Plastics South Africa, Collect-a-Can, Tetrapak, Polyco, the South African Plastics Recycling Organisation, the Paper Recycling Association of South Africa, the Southern African Vinyls Association and the Glass Recycling Company, under the auspices of the Packaging Council of South Africa.
Scholtz says Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa needs to approve the industry plan.
The DEA has requested waste management plans from five sectors, namely paper and packaging, tyres, batteries, compact fluorescent lights and electronic waste. The Tyre Industry Waste Management Plan was gazetted in November last year.
Scholtz says the paper and packaging sector’s waste management plan is aimed at increasing the recycling rate of new paper and packaging materials over a five-year period, based on targets agreed to with the DEA. The target is for 51% of paper and packaging materials to be recycled every year by 2015.
“It is difficult to predict when the plan will be implemented; however, in the interim, the members of Rag will continue to grow their recycling in line with their own current individual recycling targets.
“At Petco, we have been working towards a 50% recycling rate of postconsumer PET beverage bottles by 2015,” she points out.
Scholtz says the biggest challenges facing Petco are to get a consistent supply of high-quality postconsumer PET bottles at a reasonable price, as well as to increase end-use markets.
“With the rise in bottle collection comes the need to expand the market. We currently have two main end-use markets, namely bottle-to-fibre (B2F) and bottle-to-bottle (B2B),” she notes.
Future growth will lie in B2B recycling, as the South African B2F market is nearing saturation point.
B2B is the process of recycling postconsumer PET bottles back to food-grade packaging. Therefore, new packaging contains a percentage of recycled material.
B2F is the process of recycling postconsumer PET bottles into fibre for the manufacture of second-generation products such as isotherm for roof insulation, fibre filling for jackets, duvets and sleeping bags, and geotextiles for automotive carpets and road stabilisation.
Scholtz says South Africa’s new Waste Management Act will contribute to future progress in the recycling of PET. “This, combined with Petco’s close partnership with government and industry, augurs well for the future.”
In terms of short-term recycling goals, she hopes that more postconsumer PET bottles are collected before going to landfill sites; that more small and medium-sized enterprises will get involved in the collection of plastic bottles; and that many of Petco’s retail partners will provide collection facilities.
“We would also like to see brand owners designing their packaging in a way that is compatible with the recycling stream in South Africa. For example, it is not advis- able to use polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic shrink wrap labelling on PET bottles, as PET and PVC both have higher densities than most other plastics and will sink. This makes it impossible to separate the PVC from the PET.
“Petco aims to assist municipalities in diverting PET from landfill sites through facilitation and partnerships. We are look- ing forward to the implementation of the plan and to working more closely with government, the retail industry and con- sumers,” she states.
PET plastic recycling has grown from 9 840 t in 2005 to 37 842 t in 2010. Currently, three-million postconsumer PET bottles are recycled each day.
These recycling rates have been achieved through a partnership between Petco and contracted service providers Extrupet, Kaymac and Sen Li Da Chemical Fibres, which combine collection, recycling and an end-use market in their PET value chains.
Since the Petco levy was introduced in April 2005, more than 177 000 t of post- consumer PET has been recycled. This equates to saving about 266 000 t of carbon dioxide and 17.5-million cubic metres of landfill space.
Scholtz says, in a bid to educate consumers about the life cycle of a PET bottle, Petco facilitated and sponsored the design of a reusable shopping bag for retailer Woolworths that tells the story of PET recycling.
Petco also ran a marketing campaign from July to December last year with the aim of educating consumers on the value of PET bottles and recycling.
“We hope that the campaign created awareness among consumers about the recycling potential of PET bottles and that it will motivate them to participate in recycling,” Scholtz concludes.