Despite tough trading conditions and a fall of 13% in the total polyethylene terephthalate (PET) market, the South African plastic industry recycled a record 2.15-billion PET plastic bottles in 2017.
With a post-consumer recycling rate of 65%, the country is on par with international standards, industry body Petco reported on Wednesday.
The 93 235 t of collected PET exceeded the industry target of 58% for 2017 and created 64 000 income-generating opportunities for waste pickers, collectors and recyclers. This, in turn, saved 578 000 m3 of landfill space and 139 000 t of carbon in the process.
Petco said that the 3% year-on-year increase in recycled tonnage was particularly significant against the backdrop of political and economic instability, volatile exchange rates and industrial strike action, which had affected some of the major industry players in 2017.
According to the organisation, water shortages in the Western Cape had seen an increased consumer demand for bottled water during the latter part of the year, which grew the waste volumes available for recycling in this region.
“Through the remarkable network of people, companies and organisations we work with, 5.9-million PET plastic bottles were collected for recycling across South Africa every day during the course of 2017, creating thousands of income-generating opportunities for small and micro-collectors, and changing their lives and those of their families in immeasurable ways,” commented Petco CEO Cheri Scholtz.
Petco members, she added, paid a voluntary recycling fee on every tonne of raw material purchased, which funded member efforts and supported a sustainable recycling industry.
Since the organisation’s incorporation in 2004, a total of R2.3-billion has been paid by contracted recyclers to collectors for baled bottles, with a total of 609 306 t of PET recycled to date.
This, Scholtz enthuses, has saved over 900 000 t of carbon and almost four-million cubic meters of landfill space.